inbox and environment news: Issue 548

July 31 - August 6, 2022: Issue 548

National Tree Day 2022: July 31

Established in 1996 by Planet Ark, National Tree Day has grown into Australia's largest community tree-planting event. The initiative encourages everyone to volunteer their time, get their hands dirty and get involved in tree-planting community events, greening our city along the way.

In 2022, Schools Tree Day events will be held on Friday 29 July and community events on Sunday 31 July to celebrate National Tree Day.

Local events include:

Warriewood Wetlands
Nareen Parade, North Narrabeen
Sunday, 31 July 2022; 9:00am to 1:00pm
Site Organiser; Michael Kneipp
RSVP Contact; Michael Kneipp, 1300 434 434

Duffys Forest Residents Association
Volunteers propose to plant 500 indigenous native tube stock in degraded area of the park to create additional canopy species, establish ground cover, reduce weed invasion and to improve biodiversity & wildlife habitat. 
13 Namba Road, Duffys Forest
Sunday, 31 July 2022; 9:00am to 2:00pm
Site Organiser; Jennifer Harris
RSVP Contact; Jennifer Harris, 0408 512 060

Mosman Municipal Council
Revegetation of area to improve the biodiversity and fill in open space areas.
Little Ashton Park, Mosman
Sunday, 31 July 2022; 8:30am to 12:30pm
Site Organiser; Benjamin Wyllie
RSVP Contact; Benjamin Wyllie, 9978 4038

North Sydney Council National Tree Day Community Planting Event
This planting project seeks to build habitat and provide a protective buffer along the edge of a very special bushland remnant in Forsyth Park - the only bushland that remains in Neutral Bay. We will plant a mix of locally-occurring native species, including ground covers, grasses, shrubs and canopy. In time, the relatively dense planting approach will develop in to a fantastic habitat haven for local wildlife, providing shelter and a natural food source adjoining the larger bushland remnant.
Montpelier Street, Neutral Bay
Sunday, 31 July 2022; 9:30am to 11:00am
Site Organiser; Gareth Debney
RSVP Contact; Gareth Debney, 9936 8224

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Whale Beach - Sunday July 31st

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.

Seagull Pair At Turimetta beach: Spring Is In The Air!

This wonderful Video sent in by Joe Mills, our Reserves and Parks photographer, caught these two seagulls at the southern end of Turimetta Beach.  

Joe says; ''They are a couple and are constant companions down this end of the beach.  Very friendly and are happy to search for food in rock pools and on the high water mark in the sand while I am sitting on a rock nearby (only a couple of metres). The gull that is flying from behind the rock has just caught a small fish and presents it to their companion.''

NB: Joe has slowed the video down so you can see the details. 
Thanks Joe - wonderful capture.

Gulls, or colloquially seagulls, are seabirds of the family Laridae in the suborder Lari. They are most closely related to the terns and skimmers and only distantly related to auks, and even more distantly to waders. Until the 21st century, most gulls were placed in the genus Larus, but that arrangement is now considered polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of several genera. An older name for gulls is mews, which is cognate with German Möwe, Danish måge, Swedish mås, Dutch meeuw, Norwegian måke/måse and French mouette, and can still be found in certain regional dialects.

Gulls are typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They typically have harsh wailing or squawking calls; stout, longish bills; and webbed feet. Most gulls are ground-nesting carnivores which take live food or scavenge opportunistically, particularly the Larus species. Live food often includes crustaceans, molluscs, fish and small birds. Gulls have unhinging jaws which allow them to consume large prey. Gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea, except for the kittiwakes. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. Large white-headed gulls are typically long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the herring gull.

Charadriiform birds drink salt water, as well as fresh water, as they possess exocrine glands located in supraorbital grooves of the skull by which salt can be excreted through the nostrils to assist the kidneys in maintaining electrolyte balance. Gulls are highly adaptable feeders that opportunistically take a wide range of prey. The food taken by gulls includes fish and marine and freshwater invertebrates, both alive and already dead, terrestrial arthropods and invertebrates such as insects and earthworms, rodents, eggs, carrion, offal, reptiles, amphibians, plant items such as seeds and fruit, human refuse and chips. No gull species is a single-prey specialist, and no gull species forages using only a single method. The type of food depends on circumstances, and terrestrial prey such as seeds, fruit, and earthworms are more common during the breeding season while marine prey is more common in the nonbreeding season when birds spend more time on large bodies of water.

Gulls are monogamous and colonial breeders that display mate fidelity that usually lasts for the life of the pair. 

Gulls also display high levels of site fidelity, returning to the same colony after breeding there once and even usually breeding in the same location within that colony.

Silver Gulls (Seagulls) can breed continuously between March and November, laying between 2-4 eggs. Incubation lasts between 22 and 26 days, and begins after laying the first egg, although it is discontinuous until the second egg is laid. This means the first two chicks are born close together, and the third chick some time later. Young chicks are brooded by their parents for about one or two weeks, and often at least one parent remains with them, until they fledge, to guard them. Both parents feed the chicks, although early on in the rearing period, the male does most of the feeding and the female most of the brooding and guarding.

Nest building is also part of the pair-bonding. Gull nests are usually mats of herbaceous matter with a central nest cup. Nests are usually built on the ground, but a few species build nests on cliffs.

All native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are protected in New South Wales by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). 

Turimetta Beach Silver seagull pair photos: Joe Mills, July 2022

Magpie Breeding Season: Avoid The Swoop!

Residents are reporting local pairs of magpies are already starting to display signs of breeding in well-known local places they nest. The NSW Department of Environment provides a few tips to help us look after ourselves and these other local residents during the onset of the Spring breeding season.

As Spring arrives, many species of native birds are beginning to court and build nests. Across Sydney these species include the magpie, butcherbirds and noisy miners, along with all the shorebirds we are fortunate to share this beautiful place with. 

As Spring progresses some birds start protecting their hatchlings by swooping people entering their nesting territory.

The breeding season generally runs from late August through until November. It can be a stressful time for many people as favourite outdoor destinations become ‘no-go zones’ due to swooping birds. But the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) says there are simple steps people can take to avoid these unwanted close encounters of the feathery kind during spring.

“For most of the year these birds are welcome additions to our lives helping control garden pests and filling our ears with their beautiful song,” NPWS  Executive Officer of the Sydney Branch of OEH Peter Hay said.

“However, for several weeks in springtime, some of the males will swoop to defend their hatchlings, generally within 100 metres of their nest.

“They are just being responsible parents, protecting their young from perceived threats by warning us off.”

Some simple and effective steps to avoid being swooped include:
  • Try to avoid the area. Do not go back after being swooped. Australian magpies are very intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the same people if you persist on entering their nesting area.
  • Be aware of where the bird is. Most will usually swoop from behind. They are much less likely to target you if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. You can also hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping.
  • Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. Running seems to make birds swoop more. Be careful to keep a look out for swooping birds and if you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
  • If you are on your bicycle or horse, dismount. Bicycles can irritate the birds and the major cause of accidents following an encounter with a swooping bird, is falling from a bicycle. Calmly walk your bike/horse out of the nesting territory.
  • Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you and as they have a great memory this will ultimately make you a bigger target in future. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree and try to remove eggs or chicks.
  • Teach children what to do. It is important that children understand and respect native birds. Educating them about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. Its important children learn to protect their face.
“We advise people to try to avoid areas where birds are known to swoop and to be patient and as tolerant as possible.

“These are protected native birds and harassing them may likely make the problem worse as they become more distrusting of people,” Mr Hay added.
Magpie pair: live in the PON office yard and adjacent trees, July 2022

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

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.”

Possums In Your Roof?: Do The Right Thing

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

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

Water Sharing Plans: Farmers And Water Users

July 29, 2022
Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson and Minister for Environment James Griffin have approved changes to the Border Rivers, Gwydir and Macquarie Water Sharing Plans.

Mr Anderson said this reform will mean floodplain harvesting is controlled within the legal limits, benefiting the environment, farmers and downstream water users.

"When it comes to managing water in NSW my view is healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities, not one or the other," Mr Anderson said.

"This is a policy that supports farmers and downstream communities and will return around 100 billion litres of water to our floodplains and river systems per year on average, and more than three times that volume in wetter years, which is a great outcome."

Minister for Environment James Griffin said the policy is about improving environmental protection while recognising the need for adaptive management.

"For decades, floodplain harvesting has had no restrictions, going unmonitored, unmeasured and unconstrained impacting upon river ecosystems and the plant and animal species that depend on them," Mr Griffin said.

"As part of these new plans, we have ensured that an independent review of the local access triggers and the downstream Menindee target will occur within the first three years of the plans, with changes to follow if warranted and the review published.

"These are the first-ever enforceable controls put into law that will reduce, restrict and limit floodplain harvesting and strengthen existing protections for water sources and dependent ecosystems."

The NSW Government is working with local communities on the ground to continually improve river connectivity.

"We've consulted extensively with all stakeholders on these proposed new rules for floodplain harvesting licences," Mr Anderson said.

"Among these rules, we're proposing that restrictions will apply to floodplain harvesting licences when the water volume in Menindee Lakes drops below 195 gigalitres – these are the first restrictions of this type anywhere in the Murray–Darling Basin.

"These rules, together with proposed temporary water restriction triggers, will ensure upstream water take, including floodplain harvesting, is balanced against downstream critical human and environmental needs."

The planned review after 3 years will allow early monitoring of floodplain harvesting to be carefully evaluated, and for changes to be made without the risk of compensation to licence holders who will benefit from the certainty of regulation.

It follows on from other major connectivity milestones in 2020 when the NSW Government took unprecedented steps to protect the vitally important 'first flush flows' from extractions from the Queensland to the South Australian borders, to replenish drinking water supplies and environmental health.

The next steps are expected to include:
  • by 1 September, licence holders in the Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys will have their water accounts credited and the floodplain harvesting framework will be fully operational
  • licences for the Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys will be determined and will come into effect later this year and in early 2023.
For more information on the NSW Government's floodplain harvesting policy, visit: NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy

Eastern Bristlebirds Sent South

July 23, 2022
A delicate overnight operation recently saw 17 eastern bristlebirds successfully translocated from Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay National Park in south-eastern New South Wales to the most southern tip of Australia’s mainland - Wilson’s Promontory National Park in Victoria.

The eastern bristlebird’s population stronghold in New South Wales was used as a launchpad for establishing Victoria’s second population at Wilsons Promontory. A multi-agency team of 10 organisations carefully transported 17 eastern bristlebirds through the night across the border to a habitat naturally sheltered from the impacts of climate change.

The Commonwealth, Victorian and New South Wales Government’s joined forces to conserve the species, listed as endangered nationally, critically endangered in Victoria and under increasing threat, due to increasing frequency and intensity of fire caused by climate change.

An Australian-first interstate translocation for the ground-dwelling bird was undertaken by the partnership between the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria, Parks Australia, the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, Zoos Victoria and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to boost the eastern bristlebird’s population size, genetic diversity and long-term prospect of survival.

The lone Victorian population of eastern bristlebird at Howe Flat, Croajingalong National Park, in far East Gippsland is under imminent threat from climate change, predation and habitat loss. Howe Flat is a fire-prone area devastated in the wake of the 2019–2020 bushfires, where an emergency extraction ahead of the fire-front secured an insurance for eastern bristlebird survival in Victoria.

Long-term climate change mitigations for the species, such as translocation, have been a focus for DELWP since at least 2012, endorsed and supported by Parks Victoria, Australia’s best minds in bird conservation, Traditional Owners, rangers, land managers and researchers.

A cross-jurisdictional taskforce spanning three Australian states undertook the highly delicate operation, transporting 17 birds on a 10-hour overnight vehicle convoy, the longest journey recorded for the species, who are characteristically known to be timid, poor fliers and prone to stress.

Landscape-scale, long-term actions implemented at both donor and recipient sites laid the foundation for optimal success, including predator control, vegetation surveys, planned burning and pest management initiatives. These imperative works have ensured a healthy and stable translocated population, a safe transition and warm welcome for Wilsons Prom’s newest residents, the first arrivals since the announcement of the Prom Sanctuary project.

Whilst in transit, all efforts have been made to provide a first-class journey for the VIP travellers, with specially grown Poa grass tussocks from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria sourced to include in the carrier boxes in a bid to reduce any potential trauma for the transported birds.

This project is jointly delivered by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery package for wildlife and their habitat, Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as part of the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Biodiversity Recovery program. In-kind support and facilitation made this project possible, through the contributions of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) program, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoos Victoria.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said:
'The State of the Environment report I released this week detailed how important it is to take action to protect our endangered species. We are working across jurisdictions with our Victorian and NSW colleagues to ensure these birds have the best possible chance to establish a new population.'

Victorian Minister Environment and Climate Action Lily D’Ambrosio said:
'Our 50,000-hectare sanctuary at Wilsons Promontory National Park – where wildlife and habitats are free from pressures of introduced predators and more protected from some of the impacts of climate change – is an ideal new home for the eastern bristlebird. We’re working across jurisdictions to protect our unique biodiversity and delivering record investment – more than any other Victorian Government in history – to foster our precious native plants and animals.'

NSW Minister for Environment James Griffin said:
'This project builds on the incredible research and monitoring we have done in New South Wales for the last 30 years to help protect the eastern bristlebird. New South Wales has had great success in re-establishing two thriving eastern bristlebird populations on the NSW south coast, including the one in Jervis Bay National Park. We manage the largest and most genetically diverse bristlebird population in Australia, and this partnership with Victoria means we can share our expertise in a united effort to save this Australian species.'

Beau Fahnle, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said:

'Translocation of any native species is a precarious operation and is only considered as a last resort. For the eastern bristlebird, translocation is necessary despite the risks. Through this operation, it is hoped that the eastern bristlebird can flourish in a location where such challenges are less prominent.'

Eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus), Currarong, New South Wales. Photo: JJ Harrison.

Call Out To Improve Coastal Design

July 29, 2022
The Department of Planning and Environment is seeking to ensure coastal communities become more resilient under updated guidelines released today for public feedback.

Executive Director of State Policy and Strategic Advice Felicity Greenway said the draft 2022 NSW Coastal Design Guidelines will assist planning and decision-making to protect the coastline and ensure better-designed homes and places.

“Our beaches, coastal lakes and coastal rivers play an essential role in our lives, and we want everyone to have a say on their future use,” Ms Greenway said.

“Councils, landowners, designers, architects, landscapers and developers, will be able to use the guidelines as a blueprint to safeguard the unique qualities of the natural and built environment around the coast.

“These rules will ensure projects are designed and delivered properly so generations can play on, live near and relax by our beaches and waterways, just as we do.”

The guidelines provide clearer advice so coastal matters are more effectively integrated into the design, planning, and assessment processes.

Ms Greenway said the guidelines outline key elements to be considered at the earliest stages in the planning process.

“The guidelines must be taken into account when preparing planning proposals, which set the planning rules for a particular site,” she said.

“This means coastal management issues are front and centre from the beginning, to create resilient communities and better protect them from hazards, such as flooding and coastal erosion.

“It’s all about supporting sustainable development, addressing climate change threats, enhancing coastal industries and tourism activities, as well as preserving and respecting known and newly revealed Aboriginal sites.”

For more information and to have your say on the draft guidelines by 9 September 2022, visit

Land IQ To Deliver Savings, Speed Up Planning

July 28, 2022
The NSW Government has introduced a new, world-first land-use tool set which it states will speed up the planning system and save taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

Leon Walker, Deputy Secretary – Homes, Property and Development at the Department of Planning and Environment said the government had partnered with WSP Australia, Giraffe and Aerometrex to develop the Land iQ tool.

“This world first data platform will be a game changer for the planning system, helping government agencies make faster, smarter decisions about the use of land,” Mr Walker said.

“It uses smart technology to speed up planning processes and will help us unlock more homes for people by addressing barriers and exploring opportunities to provide practical solutions across the state.”

“We’re already putting the platform to good use to support the expedited delivery of temporary housing in Northern NSW as part of our flood response,” Mr Walker said.

Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts said Land iQ brings more than 40 land use data types into one single platform, making it easy to search more than 8 million lots and properties and test different scenarios for land use.

“Until now, Government agencies have used various methods, tools and systems for land use analysis – it’s inconsistent, broadly manual and inflexible. Land iQ can help to change all that,” Mr Roberts said.

“The tool means agencies can bring together more than 100 datasets from a range of sources to find sites that meet development requirements, then virtually test and learn how different planning scenarios perform in a specific place or region.

“It’s a solution that could help save the taxpayer up to $15 million a year and reduce the time it takes to evaluate projects by at least a month,” Mr Roberts said.

Land iQ had been developed and tested in collaboration with agencies across NSW Government.

“It’s a living platform designed to continue to evolve and adapt to the future needs of users, leveraging new digital resources as they become available,” Mr Walker said.

“While it’s only currently available to NSW Government agencies, the plan is to refine the tool and develop license options to make it available to other levels of government, Councils, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, researchers, and industry.”

Healthy Fish, Healthy Rivers And Healthy Farms

July 25, 2022
NSW farmers and native fish species will benefit from modern fish-protection screens, which will protect aquatic life as well as valuable farming equipment.

Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson said Round 1 of the $20 million screening program is now open with farmers able to apply for grants for new and innovative technology.

“Healthy rivers lead to a healthy environment and healthy farms. Native fish are a major indicator of a healthy river systems which is why modern fish screens are so important,” Mr Anderson said.

“These fish screens not only keep native fish safe and healthy, they protect important irrigation infrastructure used by our farmers, reducing expensive shutdowns and machinery repairs.”

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said this new technology would protect native fish and benefit farmers who install it.

“This project is about supporting the innovators who want to try this important practice for irrigation and water use,” Mr Saunders said.

“These screens will protect millions of native fish, as well as the environment, improving recreational fishing and deliver cleaner water, which is good for fish and good for our farms.”

Up to 150 pumps on the Lower Mehi and Barwon-Darling rivers will be screened under the program, with sites selected based on benefits to local and regional fish populations, value for money and the potential to support wider uptake.

Local businesses, where practicable, will be engaged to assist with the screen installations, which will provide a boost to employment in the region.

The $20 million fish screening program is part of the Northern Basin Toolkit that is funded by the Commonwealth Government and delivered by the NSW Government

NSW DPI Fisheries will manage the installation process, in partnership with Water Infrastructure NSW, and will work around business and watering schedules to ensure there is no interruption to supply.

Water users can submit an expression of interest on the Fish Screens Australia website

Applications are open until 31 August.

For more information email: or call 1800 677 572.

Reimbursement For Recreational Beekeepers Impacted By Varroa Mite

July 29, 2022
Recreational beekeepers affected by varroa mite will be reimbursed for the destruction of their hives and bees under the agreed National Response Plan.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders says the support shows the critical role recreational beekeepers have played in helping to manage the pest and contain its spread.

“More and more people are trying their hand at beekeeping in their backyard which is why we’ve always seen hobbyists as critical to our eradication effort right from the start,” Mr Saunders said.

“The National Working Group has agreed to a $550 payment for each recreational hive destroyed to control the mite outbreak, or $200 for those who wish to keep their hive ware, which will cover the cost of the euthanised bees.”

A $200 reimbursement will also be given for each single nucleus hive that is euthanised, regardless of whether the hive ware is kept.

A new Biosecurity Emergency Order has been issued to allow beekeepers in the red eradication zones to work their hives to prevent swarming and remove honey supers in the 48- hours before their bees are euthanised.

“As the weather gets warmer in the lead-up to spring, it is the peak time for bees to scout out a new home, once their hives become full of honey,” Mr Saunders said.

“Swarming could exacerbate the outbreak and that’s why the new order will allow people to place an empty honey super on the hive to deal with these concerns.”

Those in the red zone who wish to harvest their honey will be subject to strict conditions, including:
  • They must decontaminate all vehicles that will be used for transporting honey supers, before and after the move.
  • The honey super must be cleared of bees and sealed so no bees can enter.
  • The honey supers must be taken to an enclosed space for honey extraction.
  • Transportation can only take place within the eradication zone and by using the most direct route.
  • Beekeepers must not move any part of the brood box.
  • Honey must not be extracted until the honey super is stored in a bee proof manner for 21 days or at -20 degrees Celsius for 72 hours.
Nine new infected premises (IPs) have been detected at Eagleton, Tomago, Millers Forest, Soldiers Point, Williamtown, Heatherbrae, Salt Ash, Tighes Hill and Leneghan, bringing the total to 53.

The new cases are all linked to existing IPs and are the result of intensive surveillance in the existing red zones.

“A rise in cases is expected in the eradication area because they are often in close proximity to an existing IP. With more contact tracing comes more results and that is exactly what we are seeing here,” Mr Saunders said.

“Anyone who has moved their hives out of a known biosecurity zone in the last 12 months should immediately contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline to notify DPI of the current location of those hives.”

Only registered recreational beekeepers will be eligible for the reimbursement package and DPI is working with beekeepers and Industry to finalise the application and payment process.

For more information, visit the NSW DPI website:

To report the location of your hives call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Biosecurity Blueprint To Safeguard NSW Agriculture

July 28, 2022
Primary producers will have the opportunity to provide feedback on a NSW Government plan to safeguard the State’s $21 billion food and fibre industry, as part of an upgraded biosecurity strategy.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the purpose of the strategy is to:
  • Set a clear vision for biosecurity and food safety in NSW;
  • Map strategy objectives for Government, industry, and the community; and
  • Outline key activities that will guide decision-making for farmers.
“The NSW Biosecurity and Food Safety Strategy 2022-2030 will be our blueprint for protecting the livelihoods, economy and environment against biosecurity and food safety risks,” Mr Saunders said.

“Biosecurity and food safety are shared responsibilities and everybody’s business.

“Recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease and Lumpy Skin Disease in Indonesia and varroa mite in NSW have shown us the critical need to be prepared, now and into the future.

“We have been working hard to build NSW’s capability and capacity to manage risk, invest in tools and technologies, and improve how we work together so we can better prevent and respond to threats and minimise any negative impacts.

“Your feedback and insights will help create a strategy we can deliver together to help fortify our economy, industry, environment and community for years to come.”

The strategy demonstrates a strong commitment to protecting NSW from biosecurity and food safety threats and builds on the government’s record investment of $163.9 million in biosecurity protection announced in the 2022-23 State Budget.

The draft NSW Biosecurity and Food Safety Strategy 2022-2030 is open for input online, Thursday, 1 September 2022.

The Biosecurity Strategy will draw on the concept of ‘One Health’, which recognises the relationship between animal, plant and human health and the interdependencies between optimal biosecurity, food safety, and economic, social and environmental prosperity.

You can help protect NSW by reporting any suspect or unusual pests and diseases to NSW DPI via an online form or by calling the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline, 1800 680 244.

Labor has introduced its controversial climate bill to parliament. Here’s how to give it real teeth

Lukas Coch/AAP
John QuigginThe University of Queensland

Earlier today, the federal government introduced its hotly awaited climate change bill to parliament. Despite the attention and controversy it’s attracted, the proposed legislation – as it stands – would be almost entirely symbolic.

Labor has updated Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. So we’re already committed to a 43% emissions reduction by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

Enshrining the target in law might send a message that the new government is committed to reducing emissions. But as I explain below, the law will have little material effect.

Labor needs the support of the Greens and one other crossbencher to get the bill through the Senate. Labor won’t concede to the Greens’ core demands, but a climate “trigger” on new developments could ensure the bill has real force.

coal plant stacks emit steam
Australia is already committed to a 43% emissions reduction by 2030. Julian Smith/AAP

New Laws Are Not Needed

Introducing the bill to parliament on Wednesday, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said Labor’s emissions reduction target of 43% was “ambitious but achievable”. But in fact, the goal is far from ambitious – and in all likelihood will be easily met.

Even before the election, Australia was on track for a 35% emissions reduction – well above the commitment of the Morrison government. This was mainly due to state government action, and rapid take up of clean energy by households and businesses.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison could not publicly admit this, or adjust the government’s official target accordingly, at the risk of antagonising climate denialists on his own side.

But it means Australia is likely to be well on track to achieve the 43% target by the next election – with a little help from Labor’s modest proposed policy changes, and steep increases in the cost of coal, oil and gas. So legislating the target isn’t really necessary.

Nor does Labor need new laws to prevent a future Coalition government from scaling back the emissions reduction target.

Under the Paris Agreement, there is no process to go backwards. Nations are expected to rachet up their pledges until, it is hoped, global emissions fall to a trajectory consistent with global temperature goals.

wind turbines in rural landscape with cows
Under the Paris deal, nations are expected to ramp up emissions reduction. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Unless Australian withdrew from the agreement altogether – as the Trump administration did in the United States – the 43% commitment is almost impossible to reverse.

Even ignoring our international commitments, the Coalition is unlikely to propose backtracking on the 43% target.

Even if it went to the next election promising no further action on climate change, Australia would still be on track to hit the target. So modifying the target would bring no policy benefit – and would kill off any chance of recapturing seats lost to teal independents and Greens at the last election.

Labor has proposed to tighten the so-called “safeguard mechanism” established by the previous government. But this policy is achievable under existing law and did not require inclusion in the bill now before parliament.

The mechanism is supposed to prevent big industrial polluters from increasing their emissions beyond a certain cap – a move necessary to protect gains in emissions reduction made elsewhere in the economy.

In theory, polluters receive a financial incentive if their emissions fall below a previously established baseline, and incur a financial cost if their emissions exceed it. But under the Coalition, many polluters were allowed to increase their baselines to avoid being penalised.

Labor has proposed to implement the scheme more effectively. This relatively modest policy will proceed regardless of the climate bill’s passage.

Room To Move On A Climate ‘Trigger’

The Greens have made two key demands in exchange for supporting Labor’s climate bill in the Senate: increasing the 43% target and a ban on new coal and gas projects.

There is virtually no chance Labor will agree to a higher target – given both its election commitments, and the political imperative of not being seen to cave in to the Greens.

Man and women in masks peer at document, others seated nearby
Greens leader Adam Bandt, standing with independent MP Zali Steggall. The Greens want the climate bill amended. Lukas Coch/AAP

Nor is the government likely to accept an explicit ban on new coal and gas projects, even though the International Energy Agency says such a ban is needed.

There is, however, room for compromise. The Greens have called for the legislation to incorporate a “climate trigger”, which would mean development proposals are not approved unless their impact on climate change has been considered.

The trigger would mean new coal and gas projects could be rejected on the grounds of potential damage to the climate, without Labor having to commit to such a ban.

Labor did not rule out the trigger before the election, and elements of its grassroots membership are calling for the policy to form part of the government’s planned overhaul of federal environment laws.

Making Real Progress

The election in May of an unprecedented number of independent and Green MPs reflected a groundswell of community feeling on the need for climate action. The federal government must take account of this, if the current parliament is to land on a sustainable climate policy.

The Greens and other crossbenchers should not rubber stamp a purely symbolic statement of Labor’s targets. But for their part, they should seek a sensible compromise on measures to help decarbonise the Australian and global economies.

And what of the Dutton-led opposition? The Coalition’s embrace of climate denialism produced one of its worst electoral defeats in history. Even if it votes against the legislation now before parliament, the Coalition’s political recovery depends on it taking a more constructive climate position in future.The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

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

Nature’s deteriorating health is threatening the wellbeing of Australians, the State of the Environment report finds

John TurnbullAuthor provided
John TurnbullUniversity of Sydney and Emma JohnstonUniversity of Sydney

For the first time, the new State of the Environment report explicitly assessed the dependency of humans on nature. We, as report authors, evaluated trends and changes in the environment’s health for their impact on human society. This is described in terms of “human wellbeing”.

Wellbeing encompasses people’s life quality and satisfaction, and is increasingly being recognised in national policy. It spans our physical and mental health, living standards, sense of community, our safety, freedom and rights, cultural and spiritual fulfilment, and connection to Country.

For example, over 85% of Australians live near the coast, and beach activities – swimming, surfing, walking – are an important part of our coastal lifestyle. Such nature-based activities can relieve stress and connect with our individual and national identities. Healthy coastal ecosystems also provide our seafood and support many businesses.

Yet, these ecosystems are under great pressure from human activities. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four mass bleaching events in the last seven years, kelp forests are in decline in southern Australia, storms are eroding beaches, and coastal fishing pressure is high.

Australia’s ecosystems are collapsing, and our unsustainable actions are threatening our own wellbeing. But there are signs of change, and it’s not too late to make a difference in your own community.

Person surfing
Many of Australia’s recreational activities depend on nature, whether it’s surfing, walking or having a picnic during lockdown. John TurnbullAuthor provided

Good, But Deteriorating

The State of the Environment report, released last week, contains several new wellbeing assessments, where data were available.

Overall, wellbeing as determined by the environment is graded as “good but deteriorating”. Examples of such assessments include:

  • land management: graded partially effective as community participation is improving, but our sense of loss is mounting

  • extreme events: graded good to date, but deteriorating as climate change impacts accelerate

  • Antarctica: graded good but deteriorating, as its changing environment will negatively effect marine ecosystems and global climate.

Our urban spaces are ranked well in terms of livability, particularly in Australia’s capital cities. Air and water quality are good most of the time, and Australians can generally access adequate nutrition.

But these conditions are not universal, and they are changing. Remote and rural areas score lower on liveability and some social groups, such as Indigenous people, do not have fair and adequate access to essential resources like fresh water.

Indigenous people in Australia are also disproportionately impacted by extreme events.

Kelp losses around Bare Island after months of extreme weather (heavy rains, storms, warm water, polluted runoff). The last photo shows what the kelp was like in shallow water before the severe conditions. John TurnbullAuthor provided

Climate Change Is Already Hurting Our Wellbeing

Previous State of Environment Reports warned of future impacts of climate change. The new report documents impacts already here – and getting worse.

This includes many recent extreme events, from the 2019-2020 bushfires to the recent extreme floods. These have measurable impacts on both our environment and our lives.

While cyclones, floods and bushfires directly destroy our homes and landscapes, heatwaves kill more people in Australia than any other extreme event.

Heatwave intensity in Australia has increased by 33% over the last two decades, with at least 350 deaths between 2000 and 2018. And when heatwaves strike, we see flow-on consequences to, for instance, our hospital emergency departments.

Climate change is also exacerbating air quality issues through dust, smoke and emissions. For example, the 2019-2020 bushfires exposed over 80% of the Australian population to smoke. This exposure killed an estimated 417 people.

Bushfires impacted many homes and businesses through loss of properties and infrastructure. John TurnbullAuthor provided

Other pressures to the environment – industrial pollution, land clearing, unsustainable water consumption, extraction of natural resources – also lower our wellbeing, due to their degradation to nature.

These pressures are, of course, often by-products of producing food, water and wealth. We need to find ways to more effectively monitor, manage and prioritise them to ensure they’re sustainable.

A Sustainable Future

The State of the Environment report, for the first time, links to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include good health, quality education, clean energy, and the health of life on land and in the water.

Sustainability means meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. It is founded on effective ecosystem protection and environmental stewardship.

This large coral is thought to be over a century, maybe 300 years old. After months of extreme conditions including a marine heatwaves, it was found totally bleached for the first time. The top image shows the coral before bleaching. John TunbullAuthor provided

The State of the Environment report contains a range of recommendations to tackle our sustainability challenges. Foremost is the need to strengthen and build connections: between people and Country, economics and environment.

Learning from and empowering Indigenous management of Country is a key part of this success, as is greater national leadership, reducing pollution, better monitoring, and long-term reliable funding for the environment.

An important step is the environment minister’s recent announcement that Australia’s proposed wellbeing budget will include environmental factors.

Establishing more protected areas with higher standards of protection is another important part of the solution. The federal government’s recent commitment to expand Australia’s national estate to protect 30% of land and 30% of oceans by 2030 is a good start.

However, we must be careful to ensure this protection is effective and representative of all our precious ecosystems.

red plant growing from tree trunk after bushfires
Sustainability means meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. John TurnbullAuthor provided

What Can You Do?

There’s much we can do at a personal level, too. You can become informed about the urgency of the twin climate and biodiversity crises - and getting familiar with the State of Environment Report is a great place to start.

Immersing yourself in nature, and encouraging children to do so as well, is also essential. Spending time in nature raises our understanding of its plight.

There are also opportunities to make a tangible impact on the wellbeing of our communities by getting involved in nature restoration, citizen science and other community programs.

We don’t lack the knowledge of what needs to be done. What we need now is urgent action by individuals, organisations and government. Our lives, and our environmental life support system, depend on it.The Conversation

John Turnbull, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Sydney and Emma Johnston, Professor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Sydney

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

Urban patchwork is losing its green, making our cities and all who live in them vulnerable

Gregory MooreThe University of Melbourne

One delight of flying is seeing our familiar landscapes in a new way from above. At low altitude most of us know where things are, but as we ascend it becomes difficult to determine the local details, and we begin to see a bigger picture. Sometimes this bigger picture can be scary.

After nearly three years of being unable to fly I have had a couple of recent opportunities to take to the air. My first observation was that in many once-leafy suburbs the green tinge is disappearing under a tsunami of development. You can see this new development on the fringes of towns and cities, as well as redevelopment and infill in the older places. Familiar rows of roadside trees and large old trees that were once suburban landmarks have gone.

As you look from above, it comes as no surprise that the latest State of the Environment report delivered damning findings this week. Vegetation cover in cities is diminishing. So too are the wildlife corridors that once connected now-isolated remnant communities of plants and animals.

Most of you will have heard people describing the view we get from above as being like a patchwork quilt of different colours and land uses, or perhaps like an Indigenous painting that gives us a bird’s eye view of the world below. It shows us a jigsaw puzzle of the disturbed and fragmented environments in which we live.

However, as we soar higher we are reminded that there is only one space, that it is all connected. Each piece of the jigsaw has a place in the big picture.

Cities Can’t Afford To Lose Their Green Cover

Not all green cover has gone in the past few years, but the losses are noticeable. And unless something is done quickly, they will continue. We will reach the point where so many trees are lost that it will jeopardise the capacity of our cities and towns to be resilient, liveable and sustainable in the face of climate change.

No local government can deal with this situation. It is a matter of state and federal planning policy and development regulation.

In most states, for example, developers adopt a scorched-earth policy of removing most, if not all, mature trees from a site before construction begins. State government agencies help deliver treeless sites for development. Expensive government legal teams often fight local community groups opposing tree removals through tribunals and courts.

Vegetation needs to be valued both for the habitat it provides and for the many services it provides to residents of towns and cities. As heatwaves become more intense and frequent, it’s sobering to think the loss of urban trees will result in greater urban heat island effects and more heatwave-related illnesses, hospitalisations and deaths.

Lockdowns Reminded Us Of The Value Of These Spaces

It was fascinating to watch the use of public open space during COVID-19 lockdowns. Concerns about people’s physical health, capacities for coping with stressful situations, increased risks of self-harm and domestic violence, and the learning and development environments of children led to people flocking to their local parks, gardens and riverside reserves.

From the air, though, it becomes painfully obvious that not every suburb or region has many such spaces. It is well known worldwide that people in areas of lower socio-economic status (SES) are disadvantaged by lack of access to treed open space.

This is true of Australia’s cities, regional centres and many country towns where some of the jigsaw pieces seem to be devoid of green. Lack of treed green space is associated with problems such as obesity, poor physical and mental health and social disadvantage.

It’s highly likely people in these areas were further disadvantaged and subjected to greater stress during the lockdowns because of the lack of accessible treed open space. Perhaps this partly explains why some urban areas had lower levels of lockdown compliance than others. There is evidence that the health benefits of access to treed open space are greatest for lower-SES communities.

Public parks and gardens served their purpose admirably during lockdowns. With proper planning, they will do so again in enabling cities to cope with climate change. However, if cities and suburbs keep losing green space and tree cover, their capacity to adapt will be limited. Society as a whole will be the loser.

The mosaic quilt we see from the air reveals just how disconnected the green patches and corridors of our landscapes and urban environments have become. It is astonishing to see developments of large houses on small blocks, which could have been plucked from the new suburbs of any major Australian city, fringing hot, inland towns. There appears to have been no recognition of the effects of a hot Australian summer.

The rapid expansion of Australian cities and towns presents planning challenges in the face of demands to subdivide undeveloped land for housing, countered by demands for connected, treed, public, green space. Providing large and well-connected green space is going to be essential urban infrastructure for increased urban populations facing climate change. It’s not a luxury for a privileged minority, but a vital component of a sustainable economy and environment for all.The Conversation

Gregory Moore, Senior Research Associate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne

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

Greening the greyfields: how to renew our suburbs for more liveable, net-zero cities

Greening the GreyfieldsAuthor provided
Peter NewmanCurtin UniversityGiles ThomsonBlekinge Institute of TechnologyPeter NewtonSwinburne University of Technology, and Stephen GlackinSwinburne University of Technology

Our ageing cities are badly in need of regeneration. Many established residential areas, the “greyfields”, are becoming physically, technologically and environmentally obsolete. They are typically located in low-density, car-dependent middle suburbs developed in the mid to late 20th century.

Compared to the outer suburbs, these middle suburbs are rich in services, amenities and jobs. But the greyfields also represent economically outdated, failing or undercapitalised real-estate assets. Their location has made them the focus of suburban backyard infill development.

Unfortunately, the current approach typically cuts down all the trees and creates more car traffic as resident numbers grow. A new kind of urban regeneration is needed at the scale of precincts, rather than lot by lot, to transform the greyfields into more liveable and sustainable suburbs. It calls for a collaborative approach by federal, state and local governments.

How Do We Do This?

Our free new e-book, Greening the Greyfields, sets out how to do this. It draws on ten years of research that led to a new model of urban development.

This approach integrates two goals of urban research:

  1. ending the dependence on cars caused by a disconnect between land use and transport

  2. accelerating the supply of more sustainable, medium-density, infill housing to replace the current dysfunctional model of urban regeneration.

Greening greyfields will help our cities make the transition to net zero emissions.

Why Do We Need To Regenerate These Areas?

We need to shrink the unsustainable urban and ecological footprints of “suburban” cities. Neighbourhoods need to become more resilient, sustainable, liveable and equitable for their residents.

Urban regeneration must also allow for the COVID-driven restructuring of the work–residence relationship for city residents. This involves relocalising urban places so they become more self-sufficient as “20-minute neighbourhoods”. Their residents will have access to most of the services they need via low-emission cycling and walking, as well as public transport.

Current attempts to increase residential density and limit sprawl in most Australian cities tend to focus on blanket upzoning in selected growth zones. The resulting backyard infill involves a few small homes, which is all that is allowed on each block. Density increases only marginally, so there are still too few housing options for residents who want to be close to city services and opportunities.

Piecemeal infill redevelopment often degrades the quality of our suburbs. The loss of trees and increase in hard surfaces worsen urban heat island effects and flood risk. And a lack of convenient transport options for the extra residents reinforces car dependence.

We need more strategic models of suburban regeneration.

Greyfield regeneration compared to conventional approaches

Graphic showing key elements of original greenfield development, conventional redevelopment and green redevelopment of a greyfield precinct
Greening the GreyfieldsAuthor provided

Why Do This At The Precinct Scale?

Urban regeneration is best tackled at the scale of precincts. They are the building blocks of cities: greenfield sites continue to be developed, and old brownfield industrial sites are redeveloped, at this scale.

Design-led precinct-scale regeneration can maximise co-ordination of aspects of urban living neglected by piecemeal lot-by-lot redevelopment. Think local health and education services, small shops, social housing, walkable open space, public transport and even regenerated biodiversity.

Model precincts like WGV, in a greyfields suburb of Fremantle, have very successfully demonstrated how regeneration can produce high-quality, medium-density housing and net-zero outcomes. However, this development was on an old school site, so there was no need to combine individual blocks into a precinct-scale site. There were also no residents that needed to be engaged – though WGV became very popular because of its attractive architecture and treed green spaces.

Aerial view of ?
WGV in Fremantle is a model project for precinct-scale greening of the greyfields. Author provided

What Are The Key Elements Of This Model?

Greyfield precinct regeneration has two sub-models: place-activated and transit-activated. A place-activated precinct may shorten travel distances for residents by providing services and amenities, but does not in itself increase public transport. For transit-activated precincts, good public transport increases land values, which makes these regenerated greyfields even more attractive.

Mid-tier transit like trackless trams is an ideal way to enable precinct developments along main road corridors. Local governments are recognising this around Australia.

An overview of trackless tram projects around Australia.

Greyfield regeneration can begin with a strategy of district greenlining. Redlining was an American planning tool to exclude people of colour from a neighbourhood. Greenlining is the opposite: it includes the whole community in greening their neighbourhood.

This strategic process would identify neighbourhoods in need of next-generation infrastructure. Projects of this sort require a precinct-scale vision and plan.

State and municipal agencies can do this work. It would include:

  • physical infrastructure – energy, water, waste and transport

  • social infrastructure – health and education

  • green infrastructure – the nature-based services we get from planting and retaining trees and enabling open space and landscaped streets.

The City of Maroondah in Victoria provided an early demonstration of how this can happen. It produced a set of playbooks to show how other municipalities, developers and land owners can replicate the process.

Graphic showing key features of greyfields regeneration of a precinct
Redevelopment additions for a precinct undergoing greyfields regeneration in the City of Maroondah. Greening the Greyfields/City of MaroondahAuthor provided

Greening the greyfields will deliver the many benefits associated with more sustainable and liveable communities. However, these outcomes depend on more comprehensive, design-led, integrated land use and transport planning.

Property owners, councils, developers and financiers will have to work together much more closely and effectively than happens with the business-as-usual approach of fragmented, small-lot infill, which is failing dismally. New laws and regulations will be needed to change this approach.

Better Cities 2.0?

Precinct-based projects offer a model for net zero development of our cities.

Greyfield regeneration is an increasingly pervasive and pressing challenge for our cities. It calls for all levels of government to work on a strategic response.

We suggest a Better Cities 2.0 program, led by the federal government, to establish greyfield precinct regeneration authorities in major cities and build partnerships with all major urban stakeholders. It would set us on the path to greening the greyfields.The Conversation

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin UniversityGiles Thomson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development, Blekinge Institute of TechnologyPeter Newton, Emeritus Professor in Sustainable Urbanism, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, and Stephen Glackin, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology

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

Protecting 30% of Australia’s land and sea by 2030 sounds great – but it’s not what it seems

Benjamin CookeRMIT UniversityAidan DavisonUniversity of TasmaniaJamie KirkpatrickUniversity of Tasmania, and Lilian PearceLa Trobe University

You would have heard Australia’s environment isn’t doing well. A grim story of “crisis and decline” was how Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek described the situation when she launched the State of the Environment Report last week. Climate change, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, extinction, and soil, river and coastal health have all worsened.

In response, Plibersek promised to protect 30% of Australia’s land and waters by 2030. Australia committed to this under the previous government last year, joining 100 other countries that have signed onto this “30 by 30” target.

While this may be a worthy commitment, it’s not a big leap. Indeed, we’ve already gone well past the ocean goal, with 45% protected. And, at present, around 22% of Australia’s land mass is protected in our national reserve system.

To get protected lands up to 30% through the current approach will mean relying on reserves created by non-government organisations and Indigenous people, rather than more public reserves like national parks. This approach will not be sufficient by itself.

The problem is, biodiversity loss and environmental decline in Australia have continued – and accelerated – even as our protected areas have grown significantly in recent decades. After years of underfunding, our protected areas urgently need proper resourcing. Without that, protected area targets don’t mean much on the ground.

What Counts As A Protected Area?

In 1996, the federal government set up the National Reserve System to coordinate our network of protected areas. The goal was to protect a comprehensive, adequate and representative sample of Australia’s rich biodiversity.

Since then, marine reserves have expanded the most, with the government protecting Commonwealth waters such as around Cocos Islands and Christmas Island.

On land, the government has been very hands-off. Progress has been driven by non-government organisations, Indigenous communities and individuals. New types of protected area, offering different levels of protection, have emerged. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy now protects or manages almost 13 million hectares – about twice the size of Tasmania. Bush Heritage Australia protects more than 11 million hectares. While these organisations do not always own the land, they have become influential players in conservation.

Partnerships between Traditional Owners and the federal government have produced 81 Indigenous Protected Areas, mainly on native title land. These cover 85 million hectares – fully 50% of our entire protected land estate. Independent ranger groups are also managing Country outside the Indigenous Protected Area system.

Protected areas have also grown through covenants on private land titles, aided by groups such as Trust for Nature (Victoria) and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy.

In total, public protected areas like national parks have only contributed to around 5% of the expansion of terrestrial protected area since 1996. Non-governmental organisation land purchases, Indigenous Protected Areas and individual private landholders have facilitated 95% of this growth.

The Real Challenge For Protected Areas? Management

So how did non-government organisations become such large players? After the national reserve system was set up, the federal government provided money for NGOs to buy land for conservation, if they could secure some private funding. Protected lands expanded rapidly before the scheme ended in 2012.

Unfortunately, federal funding did not cover the cost of managing these new protected areas. Support for Traditional Owners to manage Indigenous Protected Areas has continued, albeit on erratic short-term cycles and very minimally, to the tune of a few cents per hectare per year.

As a result, NGOs and Traditional Owners have increasingly had to rely on market approaches and philanthropy. Between 2015 and 2020, for example, the Traditional Owner non-profit carbon business Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Limited earned $31 million in the carbon credit market through emissions reductions. This money supports a significant portion of the conservation efforts of member groups.

What does this mean? In short, corporate partnerships and market-based approaches once seen as incompatible with conservation are now a necessity to address the long-term shortfall of government support.

You might think wider investment in conservation is great. But there are risks in relying on NGOs funded by corporations and philanthropists to conserve Australia’s wildlife.

For instance, NGOs may no longer feel able to push for transformative political change in conservation if this doesn’t align with donor interests. There’s also lack of transparent process in how conservation funding is allocated, and for what purpose.

Protection On Paper Isn’t Protection On The Ground

On paper, conservation in Australia looks in good shape. But even as protected areas of land and sea have grown, the health of our environment has plunged. The 2021 State of the Environment Report is a sobering reminder that it’s not enough simply to expand protected areas. It’s what happens next that matters.

If we value these protected lands, we have to fund their management. Without management – which costs money – protected areas can rapidly decline, especially under the impacts of climate change.

Fox in wild
Feral animals like foxes can damage ecosystems in protected areas. Shutterstock

We also have to tackle what happens outside protected areas. We can’t simply keep sectioning off more and more poorly funded areas for nature while ignoring the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as land clearing, resource extraction, mismanagement and the dispossession of Indigenous lands.

It’s excellent our new environment minister wants to begin the environmental repair job. But creating protected areas is just the start. Now we have to answer the bigger questions: how we care for ecologies, whose knowledge is valued, who does this work and how will it be funded over the long term.

We also have to go beyond lip service to Indigenous knowledge and Caring for Country to genuinely acknowledge First Nations sovereignty and support self-determination.

On this front, moves by conservation organisations to return land to First Nations suggests a willingness in the conservation community to begin this work.

While our protected area estate is large and set to grow further towards the 30 by 30 goal, lines on a map do not equate to protection. We have long known the funding and capability for actual protection is woefully inadequate. For us to reverse our ongoing environmental collapse, that has to change. The Conversation

Benjamin Cooke, Senior lecturer, RMIT UniversityAidan Davison, Associate Professor, University of TasmaniaJamie Kirkpatrick, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, and Lilian Pearce, Lecturer, Environmental Humanities, Centre for the Study of the Inland, La Trobe University

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

Not waving, drowning: why keeping warming under 1.5℃ is a life-or-death matter for tidal marshes

Image: Pamela Marcum, GTM Research Reserve, FloridaAuthor provided
Neil SaintilanMacquarie University

It may not always be clear why global temperature rise must be kept below 1.5℃, compared to 2℃ or 3℃. Research published today in the journal Science shows this apparently small distinction will make all the difference for the world’s tidal marshes.

Tidal marshes fringe most of the world’s coastlines. These coastal wetlands are flooded and drained by salt water brought by tides. They provide valuable habitat for animals, support fisheries that feed millions of people and take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it in their roots.

New roots build up the marsh soil, while stems trap sediment. Both processes help tidal marshes keep pace with sea-level rise. Indeed, tidal marshes increase the amount of carbon they store as the rate of sea-level rise increases.

This feedback has led scientists to question whether tidal marshes might survive future sea-level rise. Unfortunately, our research shows that’s unlikely if warming exceeds 1.5℃.

A 20-Year Experiment Provides The Answer

I am part of an international team of scientists who embarked on an experiment nearly 20 years ago to test whether tidal marshes were keeping pace with sea-level rise. Nearly 500 devices called “surface elevation tables” were installed in tidal marshes in countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

These devices measured the amount of sediment and root material accumulating in the marshes. They also measured changes in the marsh’s surface elevation. Nearby tide gauges measured the rate of sea-level rise. This rate varied across the network.

Some coastlines such as Australia’s have a stable land mass – so the rate of sea-level rise reflects the rise in ocean volume driven by global warming.

On other coastlines, including much of North America, the land may still be sinking or rising after the removal of massive ice sheets at the end of the last ice age. What’s more, extracting oil and water resources from underground can cause local subsidence, increasing “relative” sea-level rise.

The data we gathered provide insights into what might happen to tidal marshes as sea-level rise accelerates.

A researcher takes readings from a surface elevation table in Chesapeake Bay, United States. Photo: Glenn GuntenspergenAuthor provided

What Do The Findings Tell Us?

One set of findings was encouraging. These data showed the rate at which material accumulates in tidal marshes around the world corresponds closely to the varying rates of sea-level rise.

Even the marshes experiencing sea-level rise of 7-10mm per year – the rate anticipated globally under high-emissions scenarios – were accumulating sediment and organic matter at a comparable rate.

However, measuring changes in elevation produced a very different picture. Even though marshes under higher rates of sea-level rise were accumulating more sediment, this did not translate into more elevation gain.

The new research suggests a simple explanation for this.

The additional sediment and water accumulating on the surface weigh the marsh down, compressing the sediment below. This is particularly apparent in marshes with high organic content: precisely the type that develops under high rates of sea-level rise.

This insight accords with observations emerging from the paleo record, which also suggest tidal marshes are highly vulnerable to rapidly rising sea levels.

A Story Of Good News And Bad

To protect our tidal marshes, we must try to reduce global carbon emissions that cause global warming and sea-level rise.

Sea level rise has averaged about 3.7mm per year since 2006. Our research shows tidal marshes are capable of keeping up with this on most of the world’s coastlines.

But global sea-level rise is set to increase. Modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects it will reach 7mm per year if warming reaches between 2℃ and 3℃.

Current global commitments put Earth on a trajectory for this level of warming. And once we reach tipping points for sea-level rise, they are locked in for centuries, regardless of subsequent cuts in emissions.

The best hope for preserving the world’s existing tidal marshes is to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming below 2℃ – and if possible 1.5℃.

But we should even now be considering how we might allow for these important ecosystems to shift landwards. This has been their natural adaptation to episodes of high sea-level rise in the past. Countries with large expanses of undeveloped coastal floodplain, such as Australia, are well placed to provide areas to preserve shifting tidal marshes in a warmer future.The Conversation

Neil Saintilan, Professor, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University

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

4 lessons for the Albanese government in making its climate targets law. We can’t afford to get this wrong

Anita FoersterMonash UniversityAlice BlebyUNSW Sydney, and Anne KalliesRMIT University

As the new parliament sits for the first time this week, one issue will be in sharpest focus: enshrining a climate target into law. The Albanese government’s pre-election promise was to cut Australia’s emissions 43% on 2005 levels, by 2030.

The government’s commitment to legislate climate targets is welcome and long overdue. Many nations now have climate laws in place to help ensure timely and sufficient emissions reductions.

But not all laws are equal. Our new research explored the impact of Victoria’s Climate Change Act 2017, and similar laws in the United Kingdom and many European countries.

The Albanese government should be guided by lessons from the design and implementation of existing laws such as these, to ensure it follows best practice. Failing to learn from experiences in other jurisdictions would be a missed opportunity Australia – and our warming planet – can hardly afford.

Holding Governments To Account

Labor’s forthcoming legislation is an example of “framework climate legislation”.

Typically, framework climate laws do three things:

  • they establish a long-term net zero emissions target
  • they require governments to set targets at regular intervals along the pathway to net zero
  • they include obligations to develop regulatory and policy measures to meet targets.

These laws rarely include direct emissions reduction measures, such as emission trading, taxation or emissions standards for high emitters like power plants. Instead they establish a cycle of policy development and implementation, providing governments with flexibility to respond to rapidly evolving climate policy, science and technology.

The backbone of laws like these are provisions to hold the government to account. Governments are legally required to set out robust and credible measures to achieve their targets, and to report publicly on their progress.

In many jurisdictions, independent expert bodies advise governments and monitor progress.

Framework climate laws are an important piece of the climate policy puzzle. Long-term policy goals, such as net-zero emissions by 2050, can be easily discounted in the face of competing short-term pressures, such as pandemic recovery. Framework laws are designed to keep governments on track.

Under framework laws in Ireland and the UK, courts have quashed government policies that aren’t specific enough or realistic about how to achieve emissions reduction targets.

This requires governments to commit to more robust, ambitious action.

Labor’s Climate Bill

A draft of the government’s proposed legislation has been shared with the crossbench and leaked to Nine newspapers, but at this point it hasn’t been made public.

We can expect the bill to include Labor’s 2030 emissions reduction target, and a role for the reinstated Climate Change Authority to advise government on future targets.

Newly elected Independents and environment NGOs have highlighted some important concerns with the proposed legislation.

They emphasise the need to ensure that Australia’s targets can be increased over time in line with best available science, and to equip the Climate Change Authority with sufficient resourcing and expertise. These are important features and a failure to address them in the legislation would be disappointing.

Our empirical research on the Victorian Climate Change Act and comparisons with other framework laws highlight four critical lessons for strong, effective climate legislation.

1. Embedding Best Available Science In Targets

Long-term targets should be consistent with Paris Agreement goals and best available science, such as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

Many framework laws, including the Victorian Act, set a long-term target of net zero emissions by 2050. Yet, science is increasingly telling us the world must reach net zero emissions well before 2050, in order to keep Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels this century in reach.

The impacts of global warming will be considerably more severe if we exceed this 1.5℃ threshold.

Instead of a blanket reliance on “net zero by 2050”, framework laws should legislate long term targets referencing the ambitious 1.5℃ Paris Agreement goal, and explicitly allow for any necessary revisions of targets to reflect the science.

Exceeding the Paris Agreement goal will see considerably more severe climate change impacts. Shutterstock

2. Requirements For Setting Interim Targets

Clear, detailed requirements for setting interim targets help maximise the benefits of acting sooner rather than later.

Interim targets set under the Victorian Act aim to reduce emissions 28-33% on 2005 levels by 2025, and 45-50% by 2030. Yet these targets have been criticised for deferring significant emissions reductions to later.

Legislation should require governments to prioritise consistency with the best available science. It should require that interim targets are designed to achieve the long-term net zero target in an efficient, effective, equitable manner.

All targets – interim and long-term – must increase in ambition over time. The legislation should prohibit “backsliding” – targets which lower ambition.

This is built into Victoria’s Act and in the Paris Agreement itself.

3. Robust And Enforceable Government Obligations

Framework climate laws should include clearly defined and strategically allocated legal duties for government ministers and agencies. This includes duties to set and achieve long-term and interim targets and to develop policies and actions which will deliver on targets.

And they should be enforceable via the courts as in Ireland and the UK.

4. Transparency Is Vital

Independent expert oversight and public participation are vital for transparency. Regular progress reporting can help drive ambitious implementation and hold governments accountable, but this also depends on public and political scrutiny.

The Victorian Act falls short here by not effectively providing for the participation of independent experts and the public.

What works well in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, is a permanent independent climate commission.

This commission has an ongoing role advising government on target setting and mitigation policy, monitoring progress and facilitating stakeholder engagement and public debate. Proper resourcing is needed to make this work.

A Way Forward

After years of dangerous inaction, Australia desperately needs a framework climate law at the national scale – as well as a raft of ambitious direct measures to rapidly reduce emissions.

But this law needs to do more than just legislate targets and reinstate the Climate Change Authority.

Learning from experience in Victoria and other jurisdictions with similar laws is critical to getting the framework right.The Conversation

Anita Foerster, Associate professor, Monash UniversityAlice Bleby, PhD Candidate, UNSW Sydney, and Anne Kallies, Senior Lecturer, RMIT University

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

Climate change killed 40 million Australian mangroves in 2015. Here’s why they’ll probably never grow back

Norman DukeAuthor provided
Norman DukeJames Cook University

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

In the summer of 2015-2016, some 40 million mangroves shrivelled up and died across the wild Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia, after extremely dry weather from a severe El Niño event saw coastal water plunge 40 centimetres.

The low water level lasted about six months, and the mangroves died of thirst. Seven years later, they have yet to recover. My new research, published today, is the first to realise the full scale of this catastrophe, and understand why it occurred.

This event, I discovered, is the world’s worst incidence of climate-related mangrove tree deaths in recorded history. Over 76 square kilometres of mangroves were killed, releasing nearly one million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

But this event, while unprecedented in scale, is not unique. My research also discovered evidence of another mass die-back of mangroves in the region in 1982 – the same year the Great Barrier Reef suffered its first mass bleaching event.

The mangroves took 15 years to recover. This time, we won’t be so lucky.

Mangroves Are Immensely Important

In Samoa, El Niño-driven sea level drops are called “Taimasa” because of the putrid smell of decaying marine life from long-exposed corals, when sea levels remained low for months on end.

In northern Australia, Taimasa conditions in 2015 left mangroves at higher elevations exposed for at least six months. Without regular flushing and wetting of tides, shoreline mangroves don’t stand a chance.

Dieback in 2015 was characterised by wide swaths of dead mangrove trees behind surviving trees fringing the sea edge, as seen here during aerial surveys of the Gulf of Carpentaria in 2019. Norman DukeAuthor provided

Mangroves are enormously valuable coastal ecosystems. Healthy mangrove ecosystems not only buffer shorelines against rising sea levels, but they also provide valuable protection against erosion, abundant carbon sinks, shelter for animals, nursery habitat, and food for marine life.

These benefits have cultural and economic value, with widespread significance to local communities.

The mass die-back event of 2015 was widely reported in national and international news, with shocking images emerging from the remote region.

The extensive dieback characteristically bordered higher elevation edges of parched saltpans. Norman DukeAuthor provided

Although the cause was unknown at the time, the implications of such catastrophic damage were immense for local and regional communities, natural coastal ecosystems and the fisheries that depend on them.

Access was difficult and expensive, and environmental records for the region were scarce. But after four years of research we uncovered evidence this event was indeed a dramatic consequence of climate change.

Field surveys involved measuring the location of live and dead trees in relation to precise levels of elevation across the tidal profile. Also noted was the unusually young age of trees being less than 20 years old. This indicates high levels of repeated disruption. Norman DukeAuthor provided

Why The Mangroves Probably Won’t Recover This Time

Our research reveals the presence of a previously unrecognised “collapse-recovery cycle” of mangroves along Gulf shorelines. The mangroves, damaged in 1982, are now attempting to recover again after the mass-death event in 2015.

But, at least three factors have changed since 1982, leaving recovery less likely.

For one, sea levels have risen dramatically due to climate change, causing erosion. This places escalating pressure on tide-fed wetlands to retreat towards higher land.

Younger trees are essential for future mangrove habitat. But upland, environmental conditions for newly established seedlings can be deadly. Landward pressures of bushfires, feral pigs and weed infestations are made far worse by the catastrophic sudden drops in sea level associated with severe El Niño events.

The loss of shoreline mangrove habitat around Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria, shown in these before and after views, are expected to have a massive impact on commercial and recreational fisheries of the region. Norman DukeAuthor provided

Two, localised storms, such as tropical cyclones, have become increasingly severe. At least two particularly severe cyclones struck the Gulf of Carpentaria coast: Owen in 2018, and Trevor in 2019. A severe flood event also hit the region in 2019.

The cyclone impacts were notable and extreme. Piles of dead mangrove timber were swept up and driven across tidal areas, bulldozing any newly established trees, as well as sprouting survivors.

Uprooted mangrove trees and the eroded mudbank marks the additional damage along shorelines of Limmen Bight, caused by severe tropical cyclone Owen in late 2018. Norman DukeAuthor provided
Stark and eerily silent mangroves stripped of foliage along a small tidal channel near the Robinson River after severe tropical cyclone Trevor in early 2019. Norman DukeAuthor provided

And three, the threat of future Taimasa low sea level events appear imminent, as evidence points to a link between climate change and severe El Niño and La Niña events. Indeed, El Niños and La Niñas have become more deadly over the last 50 years, and the long-term damage they inflict are expected to escalate.

Under these circumstances, the potential for the mangroves to recover are understandably low.

Protecting These Vital Ecosystems

These new findings make us more aware of the vulnerability of shoreline ecosystems, and the benefits we’re losing.

$30 million fishing industry relies on these mangroves, including for redleg banana prawns, mudcrabs and fin fish. When the El Niño of 2015-2016 struck, redleg banana prawn fishers reported their lowest-ever catches.

Mangroves also help stabilise shorelines by buffering otherwise exposed areas from erosion. Such shoreline protection is crucial as sea levels continue to rise rapidly, coupled with increasingly severe storm waves and winds.

Healthy living mangroves are among the world’s most carbon-rich forests, binding and holding considerable carbon reserves both in their woody structure and below ground in peaty sediments.

Losing mangroves in the Gulf released more than 850,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, across both mass dieback events. That’s similar to 1,000 jumbo jets flying return from Sydney to Paris.

Extensive 2015 loss of shoreline mangroves bordering Limmen Bight was characterised by standing dead trees in 2017, before being swept and scoured by severe tropical cyclone Owen in early 2018. Norman DukeAuthor provided
Close to the Robinson River in the Northern Territory, mangrove survivors from the 2015 Taimasa event were unable to escape damage by severe tropical cyclone Trevor in early 2019. Norman DukeAuthor provided

It’s critical these buried carbon reserves remain intact, but this will occur only if living vegetation on the surface remains healthy and protected.

Mangroves are also like the kidneys of the coast. Losing them will amplify pollutants in runoff, with excess nutrients, sediments and agricultural chemicals travelling unmitigated into the sea.

They Need Greater Monitoring

Tropical mangroves – as well as saltmarsh-saltpans, the other part of tidal wetlands – need much greater protection, and more effective maintenance with regular health checks from dedicated national shoreline monitoring.

Our aerial surveys of more than 10,000 kilometres of north Australian coastlines have made a start. We’ve recorded environmental conditions and drivers of shoreline change for north-western Australiaeastern Cape York PeninsulaTorres Strait islands and, of course, the Gulf of Carpentaria.

As the climate continues to change, it’s vital to keep a close eye on our changing shoreline wetlands and to ensure we’re better prepared next time another El Niño disaster strikes. The Conversation

Norman Duke, Professor of Mangrove Ecology, James Cook University

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

Soil abounds with life – and supports all life above it. But Australian soils need urgent repair

Adam FrewUniversity of Southern QueenslandChristina BirnbaumUniversity of Southern QueenslandEleonora EgidiWestern Sydney University, and Meike Katharina HeuckUniversity of Southern Queensland

Under your feet lies the most biodiverse habitat on Earth. The soil on which we walk supports the majority of life on the planet. Without the life in it, it wouldn’t be soil. Unfortunately, Australia’s soils are not in good shape. The new State of the Environment report rates our soils as “poor” and “deteriorating”.

We’re all familiar with some soil dwellers, such as earthworms. But the lion’s share of life underneath is invisible to the naked eye. Microbiota like bacteria, nematodes, and fungi play vital roles in our environment. These tiny lifeforms break down dead leaves and organic matter, they cycle nutrients, carbon and water. Without them, ecosystems would collapse. Amazingly, most of this wealth of life is unknown to science.

Australia has not undergone the same glacial or volcanic activity as other parts of the world. That’s left most of our soil old and infertile. Our soils are highly sensitive to human pressures, such as contamination, acidification and loss of organic carbon. When we remove communities of plants, this leads to soil erosion. Land clearing also hits underground life hard, causing microbial diversity to decline.

Soil’s lifeforms are also under immense pressure from agriculture, as well as climate change and urban expansion. If we include livestock, more than half of Australia is now being used for farming. If we can improve farming methods, we can bring back soil biodiversity – and use it to produce healthy crops.

Farmer tilling
Intensive farming methods can destroy underground fungal networks. Shutterstock

Why Does It Matter If We Lose Soil Microbial Diversity?

Australia has many different soil types. Images of each state’s iconic soil demonstrates how much they can differ. Importantly, soils differ greatly in their ability to support industrial crop production. Much of Australia is not naturally suited to this.

Some intensive farming methods like ploughing, irrigation and the use of fertilisers and pesticides are particularly damaging to the life in our soils. We know these practices reduce the abundance and diversity of a particularly important group of microorganisms, known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi spread out into vast fungal networks below ground, and colonise the root systems of plants in a symbiotic relationship.

Microscope images of fungi inside plant roots.
Fungal structures inside the roots of a plant. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi grow into plant roots to obtain carbon and provide plants with access to nutrients and water. Adam Frew

When you look at a field of corn or wheat, you might think all the action is above ground. But what happens in the soil is vital. The plants we rely on to survive rely in turn on strong relationships with these underground fungal networks.

Soil fungi can boost plant uptake of key resources like phosphorus and water and can even improve how plants resist pests. These fungi are also critical to the cycling of nutrients and carbon in our environment, and the networks they form give structure to soil. These relationships go back much further than humans do. Plants and fungi have been cooperating for hundreds of millions of years.

Image of a fungal network in the soil.
Mycorrhizal fungi grow into plant roots and through soil, creating vast networks belowground which are vital to soil health. Loreto Oyarte Galvez, VU Amsterdam

Despite breaking up this relationship in our agriculture, we have achieved ever-increasing yields.

That’s because most crop and pasture production relies on various fertilisers and pesticides for crop nutrition and pest control, rather than fungal networks or soil biology. The continued development of these fertilisers and pesticides have undoubtedly enhanced crop production and allowed millions of people to escape hunger and poverty.

The problem is, relying on pesticides and fertilisers is not sustainable. Many pesticides are under increasing restrictions or bans, and phosphorus fertiliser will only become more expensive as we deplete global phosphate reserves. Critically, their excessive use negatively impacts soil biology and the environment.

If we reduce the diversity of fungi in our soils, we lose the benefits they provide to healthy ecosystems – and to our crops. A soil with less biodiversity erodes more easily, loses its stored carbon quicker and causes disrupted nutrient cycles.

Can We Protect Our Soil Fungi?

Yes – if we change how we manage our soils. By working with our living soils rather than against them, we can meet increasing demand for food and keep farms economically viable.

As you might expect, organic and conservation farming is less damaging to soil fungi compared to conventional farming, due to their limited use of certain fertilisers and most pesticides.

These approaches also involve less ploughing or tilling of the soil, which lets fungal networks remain intact and so benefitting soil structure. This can promote plant protection from pests, and this soil biodiversity also keeps disease-causing microbes in check.

Green shoots farm
Harnessing underground biodiversity can help crops grow. Shutterstock

Clearly, changes to our agriculture can’t happen overnight. Sri Lanka’s sudden ban on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides in 2021 caused chaos in their farming sector and continues to threaten their food security. Widespread adoption of more sustainable farming techniques in Australia must be done gradually, with support and incentives from industry and government. But it will have to happen. The status quo can’t last, as our soils continue to deteriorate and fertilisers and pesticides become more expensive and unavailable.

To Care For Our Soils, We Need To Know More About Them

While we know the life permeating our soils is in trouble, we need to know more. One important finding from the State of the Environment report was the need for more data on the biology of our soil to aid sustainable land use.

Why? To date, most of our understanding of how farming impacts soil fungal diversity is based on overseas research. Despite the ecological importance of these microbiota and their potential to accelerate sustainable food production, we still don’t have a clear picture of what’s underneath our fields. For a start, we need to know what mycorrhizal fungi live where.

To overcome this challenge, we have launched Dig Up Dirt, a new nationwide research project designed to let us take stock of our beneficial soil fungi.

Farmers, land managers and citizen scientists can send us soil samples to allow us to map Australia’s networks of soil fungi. The data we collect will also be fed into the international efforts to map fungi globally.

This is a long-overdue step towards learning to work with soil fungi to benefit agriculture – while conserving the life below our feet.The Conversation

Adam Frew, Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow, University of Southern QueenslandChristina Birnbaum, Lecturer, University of Southern QueenslandEleonora Egidi, Researcher, Western Sydney University, and Meike Katharina Heuck, PhD Candidate, University of Southern Queensland

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

Artificial light at night can change the behaviour of all animals, not just humans

Therésa JonesThe University of Melbourne and Kathryn McNamaraThe University of Melbourne

As the Moon rises on a warm evening in early summer, thousands of baby turtles emerge and begin their precarious journey towards the ocean, while millions of moths and fireflies take to the air to begin the complex process of finding a mate.

These nocturnal behaviours, and many others like it, evolved to take advantage of the darkness of night. Yet today, they are under a increasing threat from the presence of artificial lighting.

At its core, artificial light at night (such as from street lights) masks natural light cycles. Its presence blurs the transition from day to night and can dampen the natural cycle of the Moon. Increasingly, we are realising this has dramatic physiological and behavioural consequences, including altering hormones associated with day-night cycles of some species and their seasonal reproduction, and changing the timing of daily activities such as sleeping, foraging or mating.

The increasing intensity and spread of artificial light at night (estimates suggest 2-6% per year) makes it one of the fastest-growing global pollutants. Its presence has been linked to changes in the structure of animal communities and declines in biodiversity.

How Animals Are Affected By Artificial Lighting

Light at night can both attract and repel. Animals living alongside urban environments are often attracted to artificial lights. Turtles can turn away from the safety of the oceans and head inland, where they may be run over by a vehicle or drown in a swimming pool. Thousands of moths and other invertebrates become trapped and disoriented around urban lights until they drop to the ground or die without ever finding a mate. Female fireflies produce bioluminescent signals to attract a mate, but this light can’t compete with street lighting, so they too may fail to reproduce.

Each year it is estimated millions of birds are harmed or killed because they are trapped in the beams of bright urban lights. They are disoriented and slam into brightly lit structures, or are drawn away from their natural migration pathways into urban environments with limited resources and food, and more predators.

Other animals, such as bats and small mammals, shy away from lights or may avoid them altogether. This effectively reduces the habitats and resources available for them to live and reproduce. For these species, street lighting is a form of habitat destruction, where a light rather than a road (or perhaps both) cuts through the darkness required for their natural habitat. Unlike humans, who can return to their home and block out the lights, wildlife may have no option but to leave.

For some species, light at night does provide some benefits. Species that are typically only active during the day can extend their foraging time. Nocturnal spiders and geckos frequent areas around lights because they can feast on the multitude of insects they attract. However, while these species may gain on the surface, this doesn’t mean there are no hidden costs. Research with insects and spiders suggests exposure to light at night can affect immune function and health and alter their growth, development and number of offspring.

How Can We Fix This?

There are some real-world examples of effective mitigation strategies. In Florida, many urban beaches use amber-coloured lights (which are less attractive to turtles) and turn off street lights during the turtle nesting season. On Philip Island, Victoria, home to more than a million short-tailed shearwaters, many new street lights are also amber and are turned off along known migration pathways during the fledging period to reduce deaths.

In New York, the Tribute in Light (which consists of 88 vertical searchlights that can be seen nearly 100km away) is turned off for 20-minute periods to allow disoriented birds (and bats) to escape and to reduce the attraction of the structure to migrating animals.

In all cases, these strategies have reduced the ecological impact of night lighting and saved the lives of countless animals.

However, while these targeted measures are effective, they do not solve what might be yet another global biodiversity crisis. Many countries have outdoor lighting standards, and several independent guidelines have been written but these are not always enforceable and often open to interpretation.

As an individual there are things you can do to help, such as:

  1. default to darkness: only light areas for a specific purpose

  2. embrace technology: use sensors and dimmers to manage lighting frequency and intensity

  3. location, location, location: keep lights close to the ground, shield at the rear, and direct light below the horizontal

  4. respect the spectrum: choose low-intensity lights that limit the blue, violet and ultraviolet wavelengths. Wildlife is less sensitive to red, orange and amber light

  5. all that glitters: choose non-reflective finishes for your home. This reduces the scattered light that contributes to sky glow.

In one sense, light pollution is relatively easy to fix – we can simply not turn on the lights and allow the night to be illuminated naturally by moonlight.

Logistically, this is mostly not feasible as lights are deployed for the benefit of humans who are often reluctant to give them up. However, while artificial light allows humans to exploit the night for work, leisure and play, in doing so we catastrophically change the environment for many other species.

In the absence of turning off the lights, there are other management approaches we can take to mitigate their impact. We can limit their number; reduce their intensity and the time they are on; and, potentially change their colour. Animal species differ in their sensitivity to different colours of light and research suggests some colours (ambers and reds) may be less harmful than the blue-rich white lights becoming commonplace around the world.The Conversation

Therésa Jones, Associate Professor in Evolution and Behaviour, The University of Melbourne and Kathryn McNamara, Post-doctoral research associate, The University of Melbourne

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

How likely would Britain’s 40°C heatwave have been without climate change?

A member of the Coldstream Guards succumbs to the heat, June 2022. Lois GoBe/Shutterstock
Ben ClarkeUniversity of OxfordFriederike OttoImperial College London, and Luke HarringtonUniversity of Waikato

Every heatwave occurring today is made more likely and intense by human-caused climate change. Early estimates by the UK Met Office suggest that days over 40°C have become ten times more likely to happen in the UK as a result of the rising global temperature.

But even this may be a significant underestimate, as models have underrated increases in the occurrence of extreme heat events before. And we know that climate change has increased the likelihood of new high-temperature records more than any other extreme weather phenomenon.

July 2022 would have had a few hot days without climate change. But with it, those days were several degrees hotter, which brought 40°C within reach for England for the first time.

Not-So-Great British Bake Off

The heatwave was caused by a low pressure system over the North Atlantic that produced a slingshot effect, firing a plume of hot, dry Saharan air northwards. With little moisture to evaporate and no clouds to block the sun’s rays, the land baked.

There is growing evidence to suggest that these hot weather-generating pressure systems are becoming more frequent for Europe. But even if they continued occurring at the same rate, the air itself is certainly getting hotter.

On a warming planet everywhere gets hotter, but not at the same rate. The land heats up faster than the ocean, especially the driest areas such as the Sahara. The approximately 1.2°C of global warming already experienced has added at least 2°C onto the average UK heatwave day, and even more on to night-time temperatures.

The UK is not prepared for these Mediterranean temperatures. Buildings are poorly insulated and lack air conditioning. Much of the infrastructure cannot cope: train lines are built from steel that is only stress-tested to 27°C. Beyond that, the lines are prone to buckling.

Extreme heat is a killer. Heatwaves in Europe in 2003 and in western Russia in 2010 killed around 70,000 and 55,000 people respectively – two of the deadliest weather disasters in history.

Extremely high temperatures are especially dangerous for the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, people in cities and pets. That’s partly because it takes a heavy toll on the heart and lungs, especially when a warm night offers little respite. And partly because hot, stagnant air concentrates dangerous pollution like ozone, especially in cities.

Nearly 2,000 excess deaths have already been reported from the beginning of the mid-July heatwave in Spain and Portugal, which also experienced this Saharan plume of hot air. For every person killed, several more require hospital treatment for heat-related illness.

Heat On The Rise

An international team of attribution scientists has conducted several studies on recent heatwaves. The March-May 2022 heatwave in India and Pakistan, which destroyed much of the wheat harvest and is contributing, alongside the Ukraine conflict, to global food price rises, was made 30 times more likely by climate change. Canada’s extreme heat in June 2021 and Siberia’s high temperatures in the first half of 2020 each would have been virtually impossible without it.

The recent heatwave was relatively short, but it was also widespread across western Europe, and very intense. We are confident that climate change made it much more likely because the event stands out in bold against natural variation in the climate, which normally averages out to be unremarkable over such a wide area.

Though there aren’t yet estimates, we know that disruption to travel and the slowing down of work during the heatwave cost European economies dearly. Unprecedented water demand put a heavy strain on systems already running dry. A combination of extreme heat and dryness created exceptional conditions for wildfires to spread rapidly.

This released carbon held in vegetation, warming the planet further. The resulting smoke is also toxic. As the days and nights were several degrees hotter, the effect of climate change cost society on all of these fronts.

The amount by which previous temperature records were smashed is directly linked to the rate of greenhouse gas emissions. The faster carbon dioxide (CO₂) is dumped into the atmosphere, the faster the planet warms and the more regularly new records will be exceeded.

While this crisis plays out, the contest to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and UK prime minister has barely covered climate change, and former contenders even pledged to scrap the country’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

This is the opposite of what is needed to prevent heatwaves becoming ever hotter and deadlier, which can only be achieved by urgently reducing long-lived greenhouse gas emissions such as CO₂ to zero. Economists widely favour action on climate change as a far cheaper alternative to enduring broken weather records year after year.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 10,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Ben Clarke, DPhil Candidate in Environmental Research, University of OxfordFriederike Otto, Associate Director, Environmental Change Institute, Imperial College London, and Luke Harrington, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change, University of Waikato

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

New research in Arnhem Land reveals why institutional fire management is inferior to cultural burning

David BowmanUniversity of TasmaniaChristopher I. RoosSouthern Methodist University, and Fay JohnstonUniversity of Tasmania

One of the conclusions of this week’s shocking State of the Environment report is that climate change is lengthening Australia’s bushfire seasons and raising the number of days with a fire danger rating of “very high” or above. In New South Wales, for example, the season now extends to almost eight months.

It has never been more important for institutional bushfire management programs to apply the principles and practices of Indigenous fire management, or “cultural burning”. As the report notes, cultural burning reduces the risk of bushfires, supports habitat and improves Indigenous wellbeing. And yet, the report finds:

with significant funding gaps, tenure impediments and policy barriers, Indigenous cultural burning remains underused – it is currently applied over less than 1% of the land area of Australia’s south‐eastern states and territory.

Our recent research in Scientific Reports specifically addressed the question: how do the environmental outcomes from cultural burning compare to mainstream bushfire management practices?

Using the stone country of the Arnhem Land Plateau as a case study, we reveal why institutional fire management is inferior to cultural burning.

The few remaining landscapes where Aboriginal people continue an unbroken tradition of caring for Country are of international importance. They should be nationally recognised, valued and resourced like other protected cultural and historical places.

Ancient Fire Management

The rugged terrain of the Arnhem Plateau in Northern Territory has an ancient human history, with archaeological evidence dated at 65,000 years.

Arnhem Land is an ideal place to explore the effects of different fire regimes because fire is such an essential feature of the natural and cultural environment.

Australia’s monsoon tropics are particularly fire prone given the sharply contrasting wet and dry seasons. The wet season sees prolific growth of grasses and other flammable plants, and dry season has reliable hot, dry, windy conditions.

Millennia of skilful fire management by Indigenous people in these landscapes have allowed plants and animals needing infrequently burnt habitat to thrive.

This involves shifting “mosaic” burning, where small areas are burned regularly to create a patchwork of habitats with different fire histories. This gives wildlife a diversity of resources and places to shelter in.

Conservation biologists suspect that the loss of such patchy fires since colonisation has contributed to the calamitous demise of wildlife species across northern Australia, such as northern quolls, northern brown bandicoots and grassland melomys.

Collapse Of The Cypress Pine

Our study was undertaken over 25 years, and wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support and close involvement of the Traditional Owners over this time.

It compared an area under near continuous Indigenous management by the Kune people of Western Arnhem Land with ecologically similar and unoccupied areas within Kakadu National Park.

We found populations of the cypress pine (Callitris intratropica) remained healthy under continual Aboriginal fire management. By contrast, cypress pine populations had collapsed in ecologically similar areas in Kakadu due to the loss of Indigenous fire management, as they have across much of northern Australia.

The population of dead and living pines is like a barcode that records fire regime change. The species is so long lived that older trees were well established before colonisation.

The timber is extremely durable and termite resistant, so a tree killed by fire remains in the landscape for many decades. And mature trees, but not juveniles, can tolerate low intensity fires, but intense fires kill both.

Cypress pine timber can remain in the landscape decades after the tree died. Michael Hains/Atlas of Living AustraliaCC BY-NC-SA

Since 2007, park rangers have attempted to emulate cultural burning outcomes. They’ve used aircraft to drop incendiaries to create a coarse patchwork of burned and unburned areas to improve biodiversity in the stone country within Kakadu.

Unfortunately, our research found Kakadu’s fire management interventions failed to restore landscapes to the healthier ecological condition under traditional Aboriginal fire management.

While the Kakadu aerial burning program increased the amount of unburnt vegetation, it didn’t reverse the population collapse of cypress pines. Searches of tens of kilometres failed to find a single seedling in Kakadu, whereas they were common in comparable areas under Aboriginal fire management.

Our study highlights that once the ecological benefits of cultural burning are lost, they cannot be simply restored with mainstream fire management approaches.

But that’s not to say the ecological impacts from the loss of Aboriginal fire management cannot be reversed. Rather, restoring fire regimes and ecosystem health will be slow, and require special care in where and how fires are set.

This requires teams on the ground with deep knowledge of the land, rather than simply spreading aerial incendiaries from helicopters.

There’s Much To Learn

There remains much for Western science to learn about traditional fire management.

Large-scale institutional fire management is based on concepts of efficiency and generality. It is controlled by bureaucracies, and achieved using machines and technologies.

Such an “industrial” approach cannot replace the placed-based knowledge, including close human relationships with Country, underpinning cultural burning.

Cultural burning and institutional fire management could be thought of as the differences between home cooking and fast food. Fast food is quick, cheap and produces the same product regardless of individual needs. Home cooking takes longer to prepare, can cater to individual needs, and can improve wellbeing.

But restoring sustainable fire regimes based on the wisdom and practices of Indigenous people cannot be achieved overnight. Reaping the benefits of cultural burning to landscapes where colonialism has disrupted ancient fire traditions take time, effort and resources.

It’s urgent remaining traditional fire practitioners are recognised for their invaluable knowledge and materially supported to continue caring for their Country. This includes:

  • actively supporting Indigenous people to reside on their Country
  • to pay them to undertake natural resource management including cultural burning
  • creating pathways enabling Indigenous people separated from their country by colonialism to re-engage with fire management.

Restoring landscapes with sustainable cultural burning traditions is a long-term project that will involve training and relearning ancient practices. There are extraordinary opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to learn how to Care for Country.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Victor Steffensen, the Lead Fire Practitioner at the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation, who reviewed this article.The Conversation

David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of TasmaniaChristopher I. Roos, Professor, Southern Methodist University, and Fay Johnston, Professor, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania

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

I spent a year squeezing leaves to measure their water content. Here’s what I learned

Tomás I. FuenzalidaAuthor provided
Tomás I. FuenzalidaAustralian National University

How do you tell if your plants need water? Recently, I asked this question of a group of about 40 biologists at the Australian National University.

Most of them said they would stick their fingers into the soil. If you want to be more scientific about it, most horticulturalists would argue it is best to weigh the pot to determine how much water it contains.

I took a different view. After building special tools to measure the “pulse” of plants, I am more inclined to feel the leaves.

Not only can touch provide a new way to follow the flow of water through plant cells, it may also deliver new possibilities for plant monitoring and care.

The Rhythm Of Plants

Plants have a natural rhythm, like a very slow heartbeat, caused by changing water pressure inside their cells.

Plants only beat around once a day, dehydrating during the day and rehydrating during the night. This process is too slow to watch for all but the most patient observers.

The pressure inside plant cells is called “turgor” and is usually between five and 20 atmospheres (up to 10 times the pressure inside a car tyre!). But while this pressure is large, plant cells are only a fraction of a millimetre in size.

For this reason, measuring turgor pressure has been traditionally been difficult and only done in lab settings. Put simply, we do not have a plug-and-play method to monitor the beating of plants.

Squeezing Leaves

Measuring plant water status is pretty important. On a global scale, more water flows through plants than through rivers, and a great part of this flux is regulated by changes in leaf turgor pressure.

Similarly, agriculture uses about 70% of all the water managed by humans, and many forests around the world are succumbing to drought. It is a key time to study the beating of plants. But where to start?

While doing my PhD studying water movement in plants, I was trying to find a simple way to measure turgor pressure and water content.

Although turgor is a property of single cells, I thought I could monitor a group of cells by carefully squeezing a leaf.

My ideas were simple. Leaves are thicker when they contain more water, so I could monitor the water content by measuring the thickness of the leaf, which I would do by squeezing it with a constant amount of force.

And to monitor the water pressure inside a leaf’s cells, I could measure the force exerted by the leaf when constrained to a given thickness.

As it turned out, these two ideas were not new – only new to me, and perhaps new to plant science. Materials scientists use tests like these all the time: a constant-force test is called a creep experiment, while a constant-thickness test is called a stress relaxation experiment.

How It Works

A year of tinkering and thinking about this problem allowed me to test my ideas in a very simple way. I bought a micrometer (a workshop tool used to measure distances very accurately), coupled it with a motor, a force sensor and some computer controls, and devoted myself to squeezing leaves.

Preliminary tests worked well, and then I couldn’t stop doing it!

Within the next six months, I had replaced the last chapter of my PhD with this serendipitous project. Colleagues and I successfully validated and published this simple method to monitor plant water status.

In the figure below, you can see the changes in the leaf thickness and turgidity of a grey mangrove (Aviennia marina) measured under changing light conditions.

Monitoring the beating of plants is possible using a simple device that squeezes leaves with a constant force (green) or with a constant thickness (blue). The resulting thickness and pressure are related to water content and turgor pressure.

Touching Plants

Measuring the beating of plants is important, but this is not the only exciting aspect of this project.

More broadly, touch-based measurements could uncover a new wealth of information about plant life. This venture may help us understand climate, save water, and hopefully help us in addressing “plant blindness”.

Plants are very adaptable organisms. Much of their adaptability comes from the ability to modify their body plan to suit different conditions.

Being modular organisms made up of a collection of different cells, plants often modify the structure of cells and tissues, the strength of their walls, and the concentration of water-retaining compounds inside the cells. All of these properties, like turgor, are difficult to measure.

Touch provides scientists with a simple tool to study these mechanical properties of plant tissues.

A simple robotic system that could stay on a tree and continuously “feel” how the properties of its leaves (and stems, fruits and roots) change over time would have vast applications in research and industry.The Conversation

Tomás I. Fuenzalida, Postdoctoral Fellow, Research School of Biology, Australian National University

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

‘Building too close to the water. It’s ridiculous!’ Talk of buyouts after floods shows need to get serious about climate adaptation

Tayanah O'DonnellAustralian National University

Australians are reeling from climate change impacts including more frequent and severe disasters – floods, droughts, searing heat and fires. These complex disasters are fuelling calls for managed retreats and debates about buying out at-risk properties.

Buyouts involve governments paying compensation or compulsorily acquiring land to manage a retreat from high-risk areas. Moving people and assets permanently out of harm’s way is considered a final step in a long line of options for climate adaptation.

It had often been thought of as something for future generations to grapple with, but my global review of the research literature shows a surge in studies of this issue in the past five years. Retreat is something we have to grapple with now.

Some parts of New South Wales have been flooded four times in 18 months. Retreat and relocation from properties in high-risk areas must now be central to climate adaptation. My research provides lessons for Australia from around the world in how to manage this difficult task.

History Repeats

At the height of the Western Sydney floods in March 2021, I wrote about the complexities of managed retreat. The same area has just had yet more catastrophic floods.

And in Lismore, NSW, which has repeatedly flooded over the years, the record floods of 2022 have brought such questions to a head.

Coastal areas are also at risk from sea-level rise. Here, too, we are hearing calls for retreat and buy-outs of vulnerable properties.

Managed retreat is far from simple. It requires us to assess complex, systemic risks. However, we now face pressing questions about vulnerabilityinsurability and rising insurance costs, and trade-offs involving value judgments about what to protect, when and at what cost.

My recent review, published by the Royal Society, sought to understand trends and gaps in global research concerned with managed retreat (after a catastrophic event) and planned retreat (before such an event). The aim was to learn how prepared we are for delivering successful retreats from areas at risk. This has lessons for what Australia – and the rest of the world – should be doing.

What Did The Research Find?

I examined published scientific literature in the decade to 2022 containing the keywords “managed retreat” and “planned retreat”.

In the past five years, 135 scientific papers containing these terms were published – a dramatic increase from seven papers in the five years prior. Common themes from these papers included:

  • the challenges of property rights and compensation

  • the need for governance and institutional mechanisms to enable an orderly and managed retreat

  • an increase in negative impacts on vulnerable communities as a result of relocations or retreats that were not orderly or well managed.

In my review, co-ordination across different levels of government emerged as a key barrier to managed retreat. This was no surprise.

Nor was it a shock to find that people’s perceptions of risk are framed in financial terms. Many are reluctant to face falls in the value of at-risk property. This is understandable given the attachments we have to “home” even when the risks are high. As one person told me about people building in dangerous places:

“[…] but this is the history of Australia, people building too close to the water. It’s ridiculous!”

A preoccupation with property values can lead to neglect of other losses associated with managed retreat, such as loss of tourism, infrastructure and other state-owned assets.

Australia is not new to managed retreat. Grantham in Queensland is often held up as a successful example. Even so, people struggled with the enormity of the loss and the complexity of the process of retreat.

Relocated communities overseas, including Oakwood Beach in New York, have gone through similar struggles.

No papers examined retreat from areas of increasing fire risk, though researchers have identified the need. Given recent catastrophic fires around the world, including Australia, the United States and Europe, there’s a significant gap in the research on managed retreat.

All climate change impacts, including heat, fire and drought, may demand some type of retreat at some time and in a wide range of places.

Lessons From Around The World

recent analysis examined three voluntary buyout programs in the United States. It found those programs could be improved by ensuring the policies supporting buyouts – including which aspects of government were responsible for what – minimised barriers to being assessed for compensation.

Programs also needed to be flexible enough to work in a range of circumstances or places.

A focus on property owners can also lead to neglect of people who are renting or who who do not have a readymade place to relocate to. Australia’s crisis of housing affordability (and availability) crisis means this is a major concern.

Thoughtful and repeated community engagement is essential throughout the process of designing and implementing managed retreat to ensure community acceptance. A study of seven Californian localities identified where managed retreat had been attempted but implementation had failed. Failure was largely due to two reasons:

  1. a failure of communication and inadequate community consultation

  2. “baggage” associated with the term managed retreat, especially in terms of what it means for property ownership.

As noted in other parts of the world, successful managed retreat has several elements:

  • barriers to implementation must first be identified and understood

  • those managing the process must learn from historical events – for example, how government and community worked together in Grantham

  • policy approaches must be consistent across states or countries, to ensure compensation is distributed fairly.

Australia urgently needs a climate adaptation agenda to minimise harm and maximise opportunities as we learn to live with climate change.

As politically perilous as policies of managed retreat may be, climate impacts demand that we start work now on actively and sensibly resolving the risks we face. The Conversation

Tayanah O'Donnell, Honorary Associate Professor, Australian National University

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

Saving burned or injured animals draws our sympathy. But some don’t survive after release. Here’s why

Associate Professor Catherine HerbertAuthor provided
Holly CopeUniversity of SydneyCatherine HerbertUniversity of SydneyClare McArthurUniversity of Sydney, and Valentina MellaUniversity of Sydney

Every year, Australia’s wildlife volunteers devote time, effort and their own money to rescue, rehabilitate and release tens of thousands of native animals. Their efforts get a lot of media attention, particularly after huge disasters like the megafires of the 2019 Black Summer.

Readers will remember vivid images of koalas being rescued along with efforts to provide food to survivors in burnt habitats.

But little is known about what happens to these creatures after they’re released back into the wild. Our new research on hand-reared brushtail possums has found release back into the wild can be fraught with danger.

In our study, almost half were killed. The main culprit: foxes. But there are things we can do.

Rescue, Rehabilitation And Release

Brushtail possums are the fifth most rescued native species in New South Wales. When a mother possum is attacked by a predator, hit by a car or burnt in a bushfire, human volunteers will often artificially raise any orphaned offspring.

Rearing babies as well as rescue and rehabilitation are important. But the wild holds threats such as hungry predators. Not only that, but the reason an animal had to be rescued in the first place could still be present.

To find out the fate of rescued animals, we used radio-tracking collars to follow 20 hand-reared possums up to 40 days after release. Of these, only eight (40%) survived until the end of the study, while nine (45%) were killed by foxes or had to be returned to rehabilitation, and three possums had unknown fates, as they lost radio signal.

Foxes were responsible for all possum deaths, and most happened within three days of release. Unfortunately, hand-reared animals often haven’t learned the behaviours to detect and avoid predators.

You might think survival would be a game of chance. In fact, we found possums with more exploratory personalities and those which were less tame were more likely to survive. These qualities may have helped possums find food and refuge more effectively on their own in the wild.

That means the odds are stacked against orphaned, hand-reared possums. Because they’ve been raised by human carers, their personalities can be very different to those of wild possums. In short, captivity can alter the development of behaviours which might be important for survival in the wild. The longer animals spend with humans and the more tame they become, the less they seek refuge, recognise predators and find food effectively.

By contrast, it didn’t matter much whether the possums were released without further support, or whether carers left food supplies to get them started. It also didn’t matter much whether they were released in urban or rural areas.

The possums which had highest survival rates were those which retained their wildness and had not become tame.

A brushtail possum standing on a rock at night time in the bush.
We found possums that were more exploratory and less human-habituated were more likely to survive after release. Professor Clare McArthur

What Can We Learn?

So what should Australia’s wildlife carers do? It’s not as simple as advising wildlife rehabilitation organisations to minimise how long animals spend in captivity. Animals have to remain in rehabilitation until their illness or injury is treated, they’re physically ready for release and a suitable release site has been found.

We believe we need to test and develop new ways of reducing tameness and encouraging exploratory behaviour during rehabilitation.

Wildlife rehabilitators could use databases like Feral Scan to gauge how often introduced predators have been seen at particular release sites. Rehabilitators could also talk to local land managers to take advantage of fox control efforts, and aim to release possums when fox numbers have been suppressed. We also need to continue developing effective methods to train possums to avoid predators, such as borrowing from successful antipredator training used for other marsupials.

Where To From Here?

In our recent review, we analysed 112 studies on wildlife survival rates during rehabilitation or after release. We found factors affecting survival were often specific to species or contexts, such as the region of the world or the reason the animal needed rehabilitation.

Globally, we found human-related factors like collisions with cars and introduced predators were major causes of injury and death for rescued and released wildlife. Tackling threats in the environment must remain a priority to reduce the need for wildlife rescue in the first place.

We hope studies such as ours can improve guidelines for wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release. To improve survival rates, scientists, government agencies and wildlife volunteers must develop evidence-based and species-specific protocols to give every rehabilitated animal the best chance at living a life in the wild.

As urbanisation fragments habitat and with natural disasters set to be more frequent and more severe due to climate change, we will need these protocols to enable quick, efficient rescue programs for wildlife.The Conversation

Holly Cope, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of SydneyCatherine Herbert, Associate professor, University of SydneyClare McArthur, Professor of Behavioural Ecology, University of Sydney, and Valentina Mella, Postdoctoral research associate, University of Sydney

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

Congo peat swamps store three years of global carbon emissions – imminent oil drilling could release it

Professor Corneille Ewango of the University of Kisangani in a peat swamp. along the Ikelemba River, Democratic Republic of Congo. Bart Crezee/University of LeedsAuthor provided
Bart CrezeeUniversity of Leeds and Simon LewisUCL

Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government is preparing to auction off a series of licenses to drill for oil in the Congo basin. This threatens to damage around 11 million hectares of the world’s second largest rainforest.

But it is not just trees that might be lost in the search for oil. Our new study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows at least three of 16 proposed oil licences planned for sale on July 28 2022 overlap with sensitive peat swamp forests, which store even more carbon below ground in their soils than is held by the trees above.

Regularly flooded peat swamp forests contain so much carbon because waterlogging slows the decay of dead plants. This partially decomposed material builds up over thousands of years to form peat. We have provided the first detailed map of the depth of this peat, and where exactly in the Congo basin all the carbon it contains can be found.

A line map of Africa with the location of the peatland complex indicated in green.
The central Congo peatlands highlighted in green. Crezee et al. (2022)Author provided

Our results confirm the central Congo peatlands to be the world’s largest tropical peatland complex. We estimate that the peatlands cover 16.7 million hectares, an area equivalent to the size of England and Wales combined, which is about 15% bigger than the 14.6 million hectares estimated when this ecosystem was first mapped in 2017.

When we overlayed our new map of the peatland on a map of oil concessions, we discovered that the upcoming sale of rights to explore for fossil fuels includes close to 1 million hectares of peat swamp forest. If destroyed by the construction of roads, pipelines and other infrastructure needed to extract the oil, we estimate that up to 6 billion tonnes of CO₂ could be released, equivalent to 14 years’ worth of current UK greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists are just starting to understand these ecosystems, including their role as immense carbon reservoirs that provide a bulwark against rising global temperatures. But if oil companies get the go-ahead on July 28, our maps and other records may be all that’s left to prove intact peat swamp forests once existed in the Congo basin.

Trekking Into The Swamps

Until now, evidence of these peatlands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had not been published in a scientific journal. Although their existence was long suspected, it wasn’t until 2017 that scientists mapped the country’s peatlands for the first time by using field data from the neighbouring Republic of the Congo (RoC). They predicted that two-thirds of the world’s largest tropical peatland resided in the DRC, which had not been verified with field observations. Over three years, we trekked through these swamps as part of an international team of Congolese and UK scientists, often staying for months at a time.

We set off by dugout canoe to explore what we expected to be peatlands in forested floodplains along the Congo and its eastern tributaries. As we travelled upriver, we passed many small villages and fishing camps. Most are constructed on stilts because the river regularly floods its banks during the wet season which keeps the peat from breaking down and releasing its carbon back to the atmosphere.

A long wooden canoe next to a woody river bank.
The research team traversing the Ruki river by canoe. Bart Crezee/University of LeedsAuthor provided

These peatlands might be new to scientific literature, but they are familiar to the communities who have lived on their periphery for generations, relying on them for fishing, hunting and to collect building material. People here helped us explore the peatlands and allowed us to camp on their lands, where they shared their knowledge of the swamps and the many plant and animal species that live there. Together, we would set off on foot from the riverbank, trudging through a thick layer of mud into which we would sometimes sink up to our waists.

Stilted houses on the far bank of a flooded river.
A fishing camp along the Ikelemba river at the end of the wet season. Bart Crezee/University of LeedsAuthor provided

Every 250 metres we would stick metal poles in the ground to measure the thickness of the peat layer. To our astonishment, we often found peat of up to six metres deep just a few kilometres away from the river. This was totally unexpected, as the 2017 study conducted in the RoC only found peat of similar depth after trekking 20km into the swamp forest, far from any rivers. Knowing these regional differences is crucial – combined with satellite data, it allows us to map how thick the peat is likely to be in areas where we haven’t travelled. As the thickness of the peat layer largely determines how much carbon is stored in it, this is a major step forward in understanding the size of this natural carbon reservoir.

A core of peat next to a tape measure.
The top 50cm of a peat core. Bart Crezee/University of LeedsAuthor provided

Reversing Massive Natural Defences

We also brought back peat samples to the laboratory to calculate the amount of carbon more precisely. Combining these different measurements, we conclude that the Congolese peat swamp forests are one of the most carbon-dense ecosystems on earth, storing an average of 1,712 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Together, the peatlands contain between 26 and 32 billion tonnes of carbon below ground – roughly equivalent to three years’ worth of global emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Two maps of the Congo basin colour-coded to display peat depth and carbon density.
Thick and carbon-rich peat was found near the Congo river’s major tributaries. Crezee et al. (2022)Author provided

Our research is part of an ongoing, long-term effort to understand the world’s largest tropical peatland complex. The CongoPeat project aims to understand how and when the peatlands formed, and whether there are any new species to be found there. We also want to learn more about how stable this peat carbon is in a warming climate, and what effects logging, drainage for farming or oil exploration would have.

The DRC oil auction on July 28 could be the beginning of the end for these peatlands. Opening them to oil exploration before the Congolese people and the rest of the world can even know what the true cost would be is irresponsible. The country risks a mistake of epic proportions. What we do know is that by locking up carbon, the peatlands have helped cool the climate for thousands of years. To reverse this valuable natural defence against climate change in the space of a few years, simply to find more of a fuel which the world already has more of than it can safely burn, is not something life on Earth can afford.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 10,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Bart Crezee, PhD Candidate in Tropical Peatland Ecology, University of Leeds and Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at University of Leeds and, UCL

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

Landsat turns 50: How satellites revolutionized the way we see – and protect – the natural world

The Yellow River in China winds past aquaculture and an oil and gas field on its way to a newly formed channel. NASA
Stacy MorfordThe Conversation

Fifty years ago, U.S. scientists launched a satellite that dramatically changed how we see the world.

It captured images of Earth’s surface in minute detail, showing how wildfires burned landscapes, how farms erased forests, and many other ways humans were changing the face of the planet.

The first satellite in the Landsat series launched on July 23, 1972. Eight others followed, providing the same views so changes could be tracked over time, but with increasingly powerful instruments. Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 are orbiting the planet today, and NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey are planning a new Landsat mission.

The images and data from these satellites are used to track deforestation and changing landscapes around the world, locate urban heat islands, and understand the impact of new river dams, among many other projects. Often, the results help communities respond to risks that may not be obvious from the ground.

Here are three examples of Landsat in action, from The Conversation’s archive.

Tracking Changes In The Amazon

Wide aerial view of Amazon rainforest and the dam under construction.
The Belo Monte Dam’s construction, shown here in 2012, flooded land and changed the river. Mario Tama/Getty Images

When work began on the Belo Monte Dam project in the Brazilian Amazon in 2015, Indigenous tribes living along the Big Bend of the Xingu River started noticing changes in the river’s flow. The water they relied on for food and transportation was disappearing.

Upstream, a new channel would eventually divert as much as 80% of the water to the hydroelectric dam, bypassing the bend.

The consortium that runs the dam argued that there was no scientific proof that the change in water flow harmed fish.

But there is clear proof of the Belo Monte Dam project’s impact – from above, write Pritam DasFaisal HossainHörður Helgason and Shahzaib Khan at the University of Washington. Using satellite data from the Landsat program, the team showed how the dam dramatically altered the hydrology of the river.

The front satellite image shows the Big Bend of the Xingu River on May 26, 2000, before the Belo Monte Dam project began. Move the slider to the left to see the same region on July 20, 2017.

“As scientists who work with remote sensing, we believe satellite observations can empower populations around the world who face threats to their resources,” Das and his colleagues write.

It’s Hot In The City – And Even Hotter In Some Neighborhoods

A woman holds a young girl up to a fan in front of a store on a hot day.
A street fan provides relief on a hot summer day in New York City. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Landsat’s instruments can also measure surface temperatures, allowing scientists to map heat risk street by street within cities as global temperatures rise.

“Cities are generally hotter than surrounding rural areas, but even within cities, some residential neighborhoods get dangerously warmer than others just a few miles away,” writes Daniel P. Johnson, who uses satellites to study the urban heat island effect at Indiana University.

Neighborhoods with more pavement and buildings and fewer trees can be 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 C) or more warmer than leafier neighborhoods, Johnson writes. He found that the hottest neighborhoods tend to be low-income, have majority Black or Hispanic residents and had been subjected to redlining, the discriminatory practice once used to deny loans in racial and ethnic minority communities.

Two maps of New York City show how vegetation matches cooler areas by temperature.
Comparing maps of New York City’s vegetation and temperature shows the cooling effect of parks and neighborhoods with more trees. NASA/USGS Landsat

“Within these ‘micro-urban heat islands,’ communities can experience heat wave conditions well before officials declare a heat emergency,” Johnson writes.

Knowing which neighborhoods face the highest risks allows cities to organize cooling centers and other programs to help residents manage the heat.

The Making Of Ghost Forests

Dead tree trunks with low ground cover below.
The white trunks of a ghost forest mark a coastal North Carolina landscape. Emily UryCC BY-ND

Satellites that scan the same areas year after year can be crucial for spotting changes in hard-to-reach regions. They can monitor snow and ice cover, and, along U.S. Atlantic coast, dying wetland forests.

These eerie landscapes of dead, often bleached-white tree trunks have earned the nickname “ghost forests.”

Emily Ury, an ecologist now at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, used Landsat data to spot wetland changes. She then zoomed in with high-resolution images from Google Earth – which includes Landsat images – to confirm that they were ghost forests.

“The results were shocking. We found that more than 10% of forested wetland within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge [in North Carolina] was lost over the past 35 years. This is federally protected land, with no other human activity that could be killing off the forest,” Ury writes.

A satellite image of the coast with red spots along a river inlet indicating dead forests
Landsat’s view of the Alligator River and refuge shows signs of ghost forests on the east side of the river. NASA Earth Observatory

As the planet warms and sea levels rise, more salt water is reaching these areas, increasing the amount of salt in the soil of coastal woodlands from Maine to Florida. “Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions,” Ury writes.

Many more stories can be found in Landsat’s images, such as an overview of the war’s effects on Ukraine’s wheat crop, and how algae blooms have spread in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. Countless projects are using Landsat data to track global change and possibly find solutions to problems, from deforestation in the Amazon to the fires that have put Alaska on pace for another historic fire seasonThe Conversation

An illustration of a satellite with a large solar panel for power high over a coastal area
An artist’s rendering of Landsat 8. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, The Conversation

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 -

Be The Boss: I Want To Be A Builder

To become a builder, you usually have to complete a VET qualification in building and construction (Carpenter Craftsan's Certificate for instance). As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a builder by studying construction management or building at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English and mathematics are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Personal requirements for a Builder

  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Good planning and organisational skills
  • Aptitude for technical activities
  • Strong physical ability to handle the workload
  • Decision making and problem solving abilities

Being a Builder can be a tough job, and you can’t be afraid to get your hands (literally) dirty if you want to make a career out of it, but there are plenty of benefits to working in building and construction, and Open Collages (Australian) are going to share a few of them with you.

1. Your job doubles as a daily workout routine

Working in the building and construction industry can be physically demanding, and there is a certain level of fitness that is required. You’ll be lifting, pushing, pulling and hauling things across the job site, as well as using machinery and equipment. But unlike an office job, where you’ll be stuck behind a desk all day, working as a Builder means that you’ll be keeping active all day, every day. In time, you’ll see how this will improve your overall fitness levels.

2. Create a strong network

Working on different sites throughout the year means that you’ll be working alongside a variety of people with a wide range of skills. Over time, you’ll build a strong network of contacts and friends. And you never know where those connections and friendships might take you.

3. Being a Builder pays well

As a Tradie, you’ll be earning around $1458 per week, according to the government’s Job Outlook website. This jumps all the way up to $3450 per week for Construction Managers.

4. Work anywhere

The building and construction industry isn’t one that’s limited by geography, whether you live in one of the country’s major cities or in a regional town. As the population of regional areas continues to grow, so will the demand for new infrastructure.

5. Early start means early finish

While construction sites usually start pretty early (around 7am), this just means that you get to knock off sooner! While most office jobs finish at around 5-6pm, Builders can expect to finish earlier than this – which means you have more hours in the day for ‘me’ time. Head to the gym, catch up with mates, join a local sports team or just enjoy extra time at home with your family and doing the things you love.

6. You don’t have to wait for a home renovator

As a professional Builder, you’ll be able to take care of your own home renovations without having to hire someone else. And if there’s something you can’t take care of yourself, or if you need another pair of hands, you can call in a favour from that strong network group we mentioned earlier.

7. Get plenty of sunshine

If you really can’t stand the thought of working behind a desk, then becoming a Builder is the perfect career move for you. You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, which also means you’ll be getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D every day! Vitamin D is actually incredibly important when it comes to building strong bones and teeth, as well as helping the immune system to function. Just remember to wear the right kind of protective clothing and sunscreen.

8. Job stability and reliability

In 2019, the building and construction industry employed 1.5million workers in Australia. That’s a whopping 9% of the total workforce.³ By 2023, it’s predicted there will be at least another 118,800 jobs created, which is a growth of 10%. And while the industry itself has slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by no means has it stopped. In fact, the building and construction industry may be the key to helping the Australian economy recover.

Are you thinking of starting a career in building and construction?

Open Colleges has a number of building and construction courses that will teach you the skills and knowledge you need to begin your career or take the next step up the (career) ladder. Our courses have been designed by vocational experts, which means that everything covered in your course will be relevant and up to date, while adhering to the highest industry standards. We have three building and construction courses available to study online:

  • CPC50210 Diploma of Building and Construction (Building)
  • CPC40110 Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building)
  • CPC50210 Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) (Western Australia)

Triangular Tri Scale Ruler for: Architects, Engineers and Builders reading Building/Construction Plans

Builder as a job information courtesy Australian Open Colleges and  The Good Universities Guide, Australia.

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

Word Of The Week: Positive

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


1. consisting in or characterized by the presence rather than the absence of distinguishing features.

2. constructive, optimistic, or confident.


1. a desirable or constructive quality or attribute. 2. a positive photographic image, especially one printed from a negative. 3. with no possibility of doubt; definite.

4. (of a quantity) greater than zero. 5. containing, producing, or denoting an electric charge opposite to that carried by electrons.

Grammar; denoting the primary degree of an adjective or adverb, which expresses simple quality without qualification.

Philosophy; dealing only with matters of fact and experience; not speculative or theoretical.

From late Middle English: from Old French positif, -ive or Latin positivus, from posit- ‘placed’, from the verb ponere. The original sense referred to laws as being formally ‘laid down’, which gave rise to the sense ‘explicitly laid down and admitting no question’, hence ‘certain’.

Further: early 14c., originally a legal term meaning "formally laid down, decreed or legislated by authority" (opposed to natural),  from Old French positif (13c.) and directly from Latin positivus "settled by agreement, positive" (opposed to naturalis "natural"), from positus, past participle of ponere "put, place".

The sense of "absolute" is from mid-15c. Meaning in philosophy of "dealing only with facts" is from 1590s. Sense broadened to "expressed without qualification" (1590s), then, of persons, "confident in opinion" (1660s). The meaning "possessing definite characters of its own" is by 1610s. The mathematical use for "greater than zero" is by 1704. Psychological sense of "concentrating on what is constructive and good" is recorded from 1916. Positive thinking is attested from 1953. The sense in electricity is from 1755.  

Daryl Hall & John Oates - You Make My Dreams (Official HD Video)

Frank Sinatra: That's Life (Remastered 2008)

I've been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race

Pete Townshend - Let My Love Open The Door

Music video by Pete Townshend performing Let My Love Open The Door. (C) 1980 Eel-Pie Recording Productions Ltd.

Gardens Connecting Communities

Published by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, July 25, 2022

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust’s Community Greening program is committed to taking its expertise ‘beyond the garden walls and serving the broader community through innovative community-led gardens. 

When Community Greening participants were surveyed about direct impacts on their lives, the feedback demonstrated 85% positive effect on health and 91% said it had a positive effect on their community; 73% are exercising more and 61% are eating better. 

Community Greening is a non-profit program, which depends on government funding and private donations to operate. 

Learn more about Community Greening:

How The Clash’s Joe Strummer inspired progressive politics in his fans

Gregor GallUniversity of Glasgow

Joe Strummer, lead singer and lyricist for the seminal punk band, The Clash, died 20 years ago this December. Strummer, the son of a British senior civil servant and whose real name was John Graham Mellor, wrote songs that did not shy away from the politics of the Thatcher era or situations affecting society around the world.

The Clash had six studio albums, which featured 16 top-40 hits, including Rock the Casbah and I Fought the Law. After his death, the Guardian noted that Strummer was a “political inspiration for a generation” and “the political conscience of punk”.

I spoke to more than 100 individuals of different ages and genders from different generations, countries and continents for my book: The punk rock politics of Joe Strummer: Radicalism, resistance and rebellion, I found that his music has had a profound impact on the politics of many, leading some to left-wing activism. Among their number are many union leaders in Britain today, including Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, who said): “Firefighters are immensely proud of our links with Joe Strummer and what he stood for politically and as a musician.”

According to many of those I spoke to, the lyrics in the music of The Clash provided them with an effective but unconventional initial education about issues in Britain and further afield such as unemployment and sub-standard housing in Britain as well as various political causes globally, such as the struggle of the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Political Lyrics

Two Strummer songs stand out in particular for those that I spoke to. The first is Spanish Bombs from the band’s third album, London Calling (1979), which was primarily about the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, Strummer sings:

The freedom fighters died upon the hill
They sang the red flag
They wore the black one…
The hillsides ring with “Free the people”

As a song about the democratically elected Republican government’s struggle against Francisco Franco’s fascist military coup, it recounts how socialists, communists, republicans and anarchists fought together for freedom, liberty and equality. Spanish Bombs led many who gave me testimonials to read the likes of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

The song also provided a historical example of active resistance to fascism when a hard right nationalism was on the rise in Britain in the late 1970s. The fringe National Front political party ran on an extreme anti-immigrant platform in the 1970s, using racist slogans and pamphlets to attract members. This was in turn met with an increasingly vocal reaction from musicians like Strummer and the Rock Against Racism movement.

An International Outlook

The band’s fourth album, Sandinista!, released in 1980, embraced the cause of the Sandinista rebels against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and attacked US attempts to underime the revolution. The Somoza family headed up a murderous and repressive dictatorship from the 1930s, which was propped up by the US and which fell in 1979 as a result of a popular armed rebellion led by the Sandinistas.

Strummer’s song Washington Bullets references the anti-democratic effects of American imperialism in central and south America, from the 1959 Cuban Revolution to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas of the 1980s, with mention of America’s aborted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the assassination of Chile’s Salvador Allende at the hands of the Chilean military dictatorship in 1973. In it, he sings:

As every cell in Chile will tell
The cries of the tortured men
Remember Allende

The song then details what happened when the US withdrew its support from the Nicaraguan Somoza regime:

When they had a revolution in Nicaragua
There was no interference from America
The people fought the leader
And up he flew
Without any Washington bullets, what else could he do?

Strummer explains that despite repression, resistance is possible – and can be successful. His anger in the song is not just directed against Washington but also against British, Chinese and Russian imperialism. Not only did some of those I spoke to join the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee but a few also went to work as volunteers in Nicaragua to support the Sandinista revolution.

Seeking Knowledge

Many of those I spoke to recounted to me that before the era of the internet, they went to public libraries to find out more about these issues. From there, they started to form radical worldviews and began to join campaigns such as the anti-apartheid movement and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Many also joined trade unions and left-wing political parties such as the Labour Party. And, with their interest piqued, they began to read widely.

Strummer was able to reach people through his music. His songs not only made people dance but through their radical messages, they were able to inspire some fans to action. Whether it be fascism and imperialism or over environmental destruction (London Calling), fighting racism (Working for the Clampdown) and Thatcherism (This is England) he moved people.

Strummer was seldom explicit about what listeners should then do – his songs tended to be more informative and inspirational than instructional. But he was nevertheless always clear that activism was positive and necessary to effect change. The Clash’s first single in 1977, White Riot, encouraged disaffected young white people to fight against political corruption and police brutality as their black brethren had. In Working for the Clampdown from the band’s 1979 album London Calling, he issued this call to arms:

Kick over the wall, cause governments to fall.
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power.
Do you know that you can use it?The Conversation

Gregor Gall, Affiliate Research Associate, School of Political and Social Sciences, University of Glasgow

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

How pioneering Australian linocut artists Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme captured an exciting era of change

Ethel Spowers, School is out, 1936, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1976.
Julie ShielsRMIT University

Review: Spowers & Syme, Geelong Gallery.

In their pioneering coloured linocut prints, Ethel Spowers (1890-1947) and Eveline Syme (1888-1961) captured the flux and excitement of an era of rapid change.

Their modernist interpretations of Australia in the interwar period have both a complexity and a simplicity. Colour is simultaneously bold and subtle; lines vigorous and delicate. Rhythm, arcs and movement populate their images of everyday spaces, people and places.

Yet, despite initial recognition in their time, Spowers and Syme have been largely forgotten.

Now, a new exhibition meticulously curated by Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax plots their friendship, influences and creative development in the decades after the first world war – a time when new freedoms were afforded to women of their means.

Discovering A New Art Form

Spowers and Syme were childhood friends from rival media families who ran competing newspapers, The Argus and the Age. Spowers studied art and Symes studied classics. As young women, both had developing art practices in painting and printmaking.

They had regularly travelled “abroad” and knew the world beyond Australia was transforming in exciting ways. By the late 1920s, they decided to be part of it.

Ethel Spowers, The bamboo blind, 1926, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1976.

Seeking the energy and liveliness of the London art scene, both women left Australia to learn linocut printing from Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art.

Linoleum, a new flooring material adopted by artists from 1900, was a cheap and accessible way to make prints. Flight saw the colour linocut print as a modern medium for a modern age: a medium that enabled innovation to respond to the excitement of the times.

Flight revolutionised printmaking in the UK. His work drew on cubism and futurism, translating his ideas into multi-coloured linocuts evoking the speed and movement of the machine age.

As a teacher, he generously shared his enthusiasm and knowledge with a talented group of colleagues and students, including Cyril PowerSybil Andrews and Lill Tschudi.

Eveline Syme, Skating, 1929, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1979. © Estate of Eveline Syme

The Grosvenor School artists regularly exhibited their lino prints throughout the interwar years, and a small survey of their work is displayed in the heart of the exhibition. Paired with a cluster of Ethel Spowers’ prints of irrepressible children – swinging, leaping, jumping and jostling – this inclusion contrasts and contextualises the diversity of mark, method and subject matter.

Urban Transformation

While Flight used curved lines and fragmented colours to evoke speed, on their return to Melbourne, Spowers and Syme developed a more subtle language of movement. Their work would capture the everydayness of change in urban landscapes and industrial sites, workers, child’s play and still life.

Eveline Syme, The factory, 1933, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1979, © Estate of Eveline Syme

Symes’ scenes of trams, roads, factories and bridges embrace and celebrate urban transformation. The factory (1933) has a diminutive solitary figure purposefully striding past sinuous trees bending in the opposite direction set against a backdrop of vibrant green chimneys and belching orange smoke.

Produced from four differently carved pieces of lino and printed in four different colours, the subtlety of movement, patterns and extended palette are achieved by overprinting in transparent inks or paint. The background sky is the colour, texture and translucency of the oriental paper the work is printed on.

In Sydney tram line (1936), simple line work and blocks of colour send the eye across and up the image capturing the encroachment of industry and transport on a rather luscious green landscape.

Eveline Syme, Sydney tram line, 1936, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1979. © Estate of Eveline Syme

The Movement Of People

Spowers’ linocuts capture momentary effects on people: rain pelting on a huddle of umbrellas, a frozen moment in children’s play and a rush of wind scattering sheets of paper.

Ethel Spowers, The gust of wind, 1930, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1976.

In The Gust of Wind (1931), a newspaper-seller struggles to control his copies of the evening news. Arcs and rhythmic movements emphasise the futility of the worker’s attempts to contain the breakout.

Special Edition (1936) is a sea of newspapers, all firmly in the control of a phalanx of anonymous and obscured readers. The qualities of the oriental tissue paper are again employed as an intrinsic part of the image. The newspapers are defined by slender lines and the heads of readers blur into featureless anonymity.

Both remind us of Spowers’ family connection to the publishing industry.

Ethel Spowers, Special edition, 1936, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra.

A Sense Of Optimism

While it is exciting to contemplate and celebrate the very long friendship between Spowers and Syme – an alliance that enabled them both to pursue careers as professional artists – their works also give us a sense of their class and privilege.

Spowers’ surging newspaper readers and striding children all appear to be barrelling towards the future with confidence despite the Great Depression and the growing threat of fascism.

The demeanour is one of optimism, innocence, humour or cheerful bravura and the realities of their time largely overlooked. Like many educated women of their means, social responsibilities were acquitted through philanthropy. Syme, known for her commitment to women’s education reform, and Spowers to women’s and children’s hospitals.

Ethel Spowers, Bank holiday, 1935, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1976.

Spowers and Syme made prints about a modernising Australia. They employed new materials and printing techniques, drawing on modernist art styles and influences to express their enthusiastic embrace of change. Movement is key and the combination of simple forms and dynamic, rhythmic lines animate the linocuts.

These qualities make reproductions easy to apprehend in print or online, however much of the luminosity, and unexpected nuances are lost and can only be truly appreciated in person.

Eveline Syme, Beginners’ class, 1956, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1992. © Estate of Eveline Syme

Spowers & Symes offers a rich encounter with their imagery and their lives, where colour and line come to life, opening up an exciting era of transformation and change in Australian art.

Spowers & Symes is a National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition, at Geelong Gallery until October 16.The Conversation

Julie Shiels, Lecturer - School of Art, RMIT University

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

Labelling ‘fake art’ isn’t enough. Australia needs to recognise and protect First Nations cultural and intellectual property

Nicola St JohnRMIT University and Emrhan SultanRMIT University

The latest draft report from the Productivity Commission on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts confirms what First Nations artists have known for decades: fake art harms culture.

Released last week, the report details how two in three Indigenous-style products, souvenirs or digital imagery sold in Australia are fake, with no connection to – or benefit for – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This is a long-standing problem. As Aboriginal Elder Gawirrin Gumana (Yolngu) explained in 1996:

When that [white] man does that it is like cutting off our skin.

The Productivity Commission has proposed all inauthentic Indigenous art should be labelled as such. But we think a much bolder conversation needs to happen around protecting the cultural and intellectual property of Indigenous artists.

Australia has no national licensing or production guidelines to protect Indigenous cultural and intellectual property within commercial design and digital spaces. Our work hopes to see this change.

‘This Is Storytelling’

Our research focuses on supporting and representing First Nations artists within design and commercial spaces, understanding how to ensure cultural safety and appropriate payment and combat exploitation.

Many First Nations artists we spoke to told us stories of exploitative business models. They were blindly led into licensing agreements and client relations that were not culturally safe. Clients thought commissioning a design equated to “owning” the copyright to First Nations art, culture and knowledge.

Gudanji/Wakaja artist and winner of the 2022 NAIDOC poster competition Ryhia Dank told us:

We need clear recognition, structures and licensing guidelines to protect all of what First Nations ‘art’ represents. I know a lot of us, as we are starting out don’t know how to licence our work […]

One of my first designs was for a fabric company and I didn’t licence the design correctly, so that company is still using my design and I only once charged them $350 and that was it. Having legal support from the start is critical.

NAIDOC poster reads: Get up, stand up, show up.
The 2022 National NAIDOC Poster incorporating the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag (licensed by the Torres Strait Island Council). NAIDOCCC BY-NC-ND

Arrernte and Anmatyerre graphic novelist Declan Miller explained how many clients and businesses are misguided in thinking commissioning a design equates to owning the copyright to First Nations knowledges.

“Our art is not just art,” he said.

Clients need to be aware this is storytelling. This is culture. We will always own that. But we are happy for clients to work with us, and use our art and pay us for it, but we have to keep that integrity. This is our story, this is where we are from, this is who we are and you can’t buy that or take that from us.

Protecting Property

Transparent labelling of inauthentic art is a great start, but there is more work needed.

Intellectual property laws and processes should adequately protect First Nations art.

“Indigenous cultural and intellectual property” refers to the rights First Nations people have – and want to have – to protect their traditional arts, heritage and culture.

This can include communally owned cultural practices, traditional knowledge and resources and knowledge systems developed by First Nations people as part of their First Nations identity.

First Nations products should be supplied by a First Nations business that protects Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, with direct benefits to First Nations communities.

The outcomes of our research have resulted in the recent launch of Solid Lines – Australia’s only First Nations illustration agency to be led by First Nations people. An integral part of this agency is the Indigenous cultural and intellectual property policy designed specifically for the design and commercial art industry.

The agency hopes this policy, created with Marrawah Law, will help create and support culturally safe and supportive pathways for First Nations creatives.

For First Nations artists represented by Solid Lines, our policy also means obtaining culturally appropriate approval to use family or community stories, and knowledges and symbols that are communally owned.

Recognition And Protection

The report from the Productivity commission focuses on fake art coming in from overseas, but fake art also happens in our own backyard.

In our research, we have spoken to Elders, traditional custodians, and community leaders who are concerned that Western and Central Desert designs, symbols and iconography are now used by other First Nations across Australia.

This work often undermines customary laws and limits economic benefits flowing back to communities.

Community designs, symbols and iconography are part of a cultural connection to a specific land or country of First Nations people. Embracing Indigenous cultural and intellectual property policies will mean designs, symbols and iconography can only be used by the communities they belong to.

The Productivity Commission calculated the value of authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, crafts, and designs sold in Australia in 2019-2020 at A$250 million. This will only continue to grow as Australia’s design and commercial industries continue to draw upon the oldest continuing culture in the world.

Visible recognition and protection of First Nations cultural and intellectual property will allow for new creative voices to respectfully and safely emerge within Australian art and design industries.

Through embracing guidelines around Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, First Nations artists will be supported in cultural safety, appropriate payment and combat exploitation. This is the next step beyond labelling inauthentic art.The Conversation

Nicola St John, Lecturer, Communication Design, RMIT University and Emrhan Sultan, Researcher, RMIT School of Design, RMIT University

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

‘Suburban living did turn women into robots’: why feminist horror novel The Stepford Wives is still relevant, 50 years on

The Stepford Wives (1975) IMBD
Michelle ArrowMacquarie University

On August 26 1970, 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City in a Women’s Strike. Organised by feminist activist Betty Friedan, the march highlighted the fact women still performed the vast majority of domestic work.

The Women’s Liberation Movement wanted many things in 1970, but one of the most important was freedom from “unpaid domestic servitude at home”.

Half a century later, most women are still waiting for their freedom. Women still do far more domestic and care labour than men.

Since the 1960s, more and more women have taken up paid employment, but a problem remains: how would their unpaid domestic work be replaced?

Dramatising Women’s Suburban Alienation

Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives offered a bleak answer: women themselves would be replaced. Levin powerfully dramatised women’s suburban alienation and men’s resistance to feminist change.

The 1972 original cover.

The Stepford Wives begins with Joanna Eberhart, a wife, mother and photographer, who moves with her family from Manhattan to the suburban town of Stepford. She is interested in tennis, photography and women’s liberation. Joanna and her husband Walter have a happy, respectful marriage. Yet Walter joins the mysterious Stepford Men’s Association, where the men of the town spend their evenings.

Joanna finds it hard to make friends in their new home: all the women of Stepford are too busy cooking and cleaning. In the 1975 film adaptation (directed by Bryan Forbes, with a screenplay by William Goldman), Joanna and her only friend, fellow newcomer Bobbie, begin a consciousness-raising group – designed to raise women’s feminist awareness – which is derailed by an intense discussion of the merits of Easy-On Spray Starch.

The 1975 film of The Stepford Wives is as iconic as Ira Levin’s novel.

The women of Stepford transform into glassy-eyed housewives within months of arriving. Watching one of them admiring her washing, “like an actress in a commercial”, Joanna thinks

That’s what they all were, all the Stepford wives: actresses in commercials, pleased with detergents and floor wax, with cleansers, shampoos, and deodorants. Pretty actresses, big in the bosom but small in the talent, playing suburban housewives unconvincingly, too nicey-nice to be real.

Joanna and Bobbie realise, with mounting horror, that the Stepford women have literally been replaced by robots, in a scheme masterminded by their husbands – and they too, will be similarly transformed. Bobbie is first. She tells Joanna

I realised I was being awfully sloppy and self-indulgent. […] I’ve decided to do my job conscientiously, the way Dave does his.

The women’s personalities have been erased, but their families don’t seem to mind – Bobbie’s son is delighted because his mother now makes hot breakfasts, while the husbands are thrilled because their “new” wives love sex and housework.

Fearful that she “won’t be me next summer”, Joanne realises Walter has also changed. He tells her the women of Stepford have changed only

because they realised they’d been lazy and negligent […] It wouldn’t hurt you to look in a mirror once in a while.

Joanna agrees to see a psychiatrist, who prescribes her a sedative. But soon after, her voice vanishes from the novel, as she too has been transformed. At the story’s close, Joanna is gliding slowly through a supermarket, telling an acquaintance that she no longer does photography because “housework’s enough for me”.

An Extraordinary Feminist Horror Novel

The Stepford Wives is an extraordinary feminist horror novel. Its vision of a group of men who engineer housework-loving robots to replace their restless wives offered not only a satire of male fears of women’s liberation, but a savage view of heterosexual marriage. In this telling, a man would rather kill his wife and replace her with a robot than commit to equality and recognise her as a whole person.

Sarah Marshall, co-host of the podcast You’re Wrong About, argued the novel dramatised a real problem of the 1960s and 1970s: suburban living did transform women into robots. Tranquillisers like valium were massively over-prescribed for women who were suffering from “suburban neurosis”, both in Australia and the US.

The extraordinary 1977 Australian documentary All In The Same Boat suggested suburban women had to take drugs to cope because their husbands refused to shoulder their share of the burdens of home and family. In short, what was happening to the women of Stepford was happening to women everywhere. They were losing their identities in a sea of endless domestic labour.

This 1977 Australian documentary shows that what was happening to the women of Stepford was happening everywhere.

Joanna’s bafflement at her neighbours’ absorption in domestic chores echoed the feelings of many women of the era. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique resonated with so many white women in the 1960s because it articulated their dissatisfaction with the postwar gender order. Friedan declared:

we can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children and my house.’

Like many who joined women’s liberation, Joanna also wanted something more. The novel made it clear that “more” would be difficult for many women.

From Post-Feminism To Get Out: Cultural Influence

It is telling that in post-feminist 2004, the Joanna in the Frank Oz film remake of The Stepford Wives is not a woman seeking liberation, but a TV network president who creates crass reality TV programs. Women’s liberation had been transformed into corporate feminism, and the engineer of the scheme was not the Stepford Men’s Association, but an exhausted career woman who wants to return to a “simpler” life. The remake took a feminist premise and made an anti-feminist film.

Women’s liberation was transformed into corporate feminism in the 2004 remake.

Despite the dismal failure of the 2004 film, The Stepford Wives left a significant cultural footprint. The term itself entered the vernacular. Filmmaker Jordan Peele cited The Stepford Wives as a key influence on his horror film Get Out, also set in white suburbia. And Alex Garland’s 2014 film Ex Machina, centred on a lifelike female robot who turns on her creator, was a biting critique of tech bro misogyny.

In a post-Roe v Wade world, where many men still seek to control women’s bodies and curtail their imaginations, Levin’s novel remains as chilling as ever.The Conversation

Michelle Arrow, Professor of History, Macquarie University

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

We are working from home (again). 7 tips to boost wellbeing and productivity

Libby (Elizabeth) SanderBond University

Telstra and Westpac are the latest companies to encourage staff to work from home, just a few months after some of them returned to the office.

Working from home for extended periods can leave employees feeling socially and professionally isolated. When people work from home, they have fewer opportunities to interact and acquire information, which may explain why remote workers feel less confident than their office-based counterparts.

Researchers also report working from home (WFH) is linked to negative physical health outcomes such as increased musculoskeletal pain and weight gain, as well as exhaustion.

If you are still working from home or your employer has just reinstated it, the good news is there are evidence-backed tips that can help overcome the challenges. Here are seven tips to navigating the coming weeks and months.

1. Maintain Your Connections

A chief complaint in surveys about working from home is social isolation. We miss connecting with our colleagues and friends.

Loneliness has significant implications for our work, with research showing work loneliness can result in emotional withdrawal, which ultimately leads to deteriorating performance and wellbeing, as well as poorer health.

Now lockdown restrictions have ended, maintaining connection is easier. Planning regular meet-ups with colleagues is an easy and effective way to overcome the social isolation felt working from home. Infection risks can be lessened by wearing respirators when you can’t socially distance. You should also stay home if you’re sick.

Some companies are now also implementing walking meetings. As well as connecting with others, it’s an easy way to get some exercise as well as the stress-reducing benefits of nature. In one study, walking was shown to increase creativity by 81%.

2. Tidy Up Regularly

While a messy desk has helped win a Nobel prize and may be helpful for creativity, removing clutter is recommended for a lot of the other types of tasks we undertake in an average workday. A clutter-free desk may reduce the cognitive load on our brains, making us more productive.

Researchers have found clutter influences employees’ thinking, emotions and behaviours. These factors affect decision-making, relationships, stress, eating choices and even sleep.

3. Limit Zoom Meetings And Reduce ‘Pings’

As technology platforms proliferate, so does the overload and distraction for our brains. After more than two years of WFH, the prospect of yet another Zoom meeting may well be uninspiring.

There are a few things we can do. Switch off notifications if possible, and ask whether each meeting really needs to happen. Using document sharing and email can sometimes replace meetings. A good old-fashioned telephone call may also be a good alternative. During a phone call, we only have to concentrate on one voice and can walk around, which can help thinking.

laptop shows zoom participants, plus a coffee cup
Talking to one person on the phone might be more efficient than another zoom. Unsplash/Chris MontgomeryCC BY

4. Ask For Feedback

Wondering how we are doing on the job undermines one of the key psychological drivers of our work, a sense of competence. It might be harder to gauge how your manager thinks you’re tracking with expectations, if you’re socially distant.

Obtaining feedback is vital for employees to develop this sense of competence, so make sure you ask for regular feedback.

5. Create A WFH Space

Research suggests replicating what you might have in the office can be a good way to control or mark out a work space at home. Having a proper desk does actually matter.

While few of us will have something as incredible as a musical puzzle desk, we can start with a desk that is both functional and attractive.

A flat surface, ergonomic chair, and suitable lighting can reduce problems such as eye strain, muscular pain or stiffness and back injuries, as well as decreasing fatigue.

6. Identify Restorative Spaces

Spaces that promote psychological and emotional detachment from work are also important. Restorative spaces, such as lounge areas, cafes, nature rooms and meditations spaces have begun to emerge in office settings in recent years.

Such spaces have been shown to support mental and physical replenishment.

Taking a break on your favourite couch or in a sunny spot during the workday is an important part of maintaining wellbeing and productivity – not something to feel guilty about.

7. Find Ways To Disconnect

It can be hard for employees who are working from home to switch off, particularly if we don’t have a dedicated home office space.

Around half of employees increase their work hours when WFH. Not being able to switch off can have implications beyond the work day.

study from 15 countries found 42% of individuals who worked from home had trouble sleeping and woke up repeatedly in the night, compared to only 29% of individuals who always worked in the office.

Many workers enjoy not having to commute to the office, but there is a potential downside to losing the “transition time” involved in travelling from home. We might use this time to separate private issues from work ones, to prepare for the day ahead or process the one just passed.

In addition to practical considerations such as shutting down software and finalising tasks, research shows using defined end-of-day rituals can help achieve psychological detachment, emotional regulation of the nervous system and reduce physiological stress.

Instead of commuting, meditation, journaling, listening to music, engaging in hobbies or pleasurable activities, or undertaking exercise can give us a mental break, so we aren’t still thinking about work hours later.

More than two years into a forced global experiment, we now know a lot more about the benefits and challenges of working from home. Implementing these simple, evidence-backed strategies can make a big difference to our wellbeing.The Conversation

Libby (Elizabeth) Sander, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Bond Business School, Bond University

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

This Australian experiment is on the hunt for an elusive particle that could help unlock the mystery of dark matter

Ben McAllisterThe University of Western Australia

Australian scientists are making strides towards solving one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: the nature of invisible “dark matter”.

The ORGAN Experiment, Australia’s first major dark matter detector, recently completed a search for a hypothetical particle called an axion – a popular candidate among theories that try to explain dark matter.

ORGAN has placed new limits on the possible characteristics of axions and thus helped narrow the search for them. But before we get ahead of ourselves …

Let’s Start With A Story

About 14 billion years ago, all the little pieces of matter – the fundamental particles that would later become you, the planet and the galaxy – were compressed into one very dense, hot region.

Then the Big Bang happened and everything flew apart. The particles combined into atoms, which eventually clumped together to make stars, which exploded and created all kinds of exotic matter.

After a few billion years came Earth, which was eventually crawling with little things called humans. Cool story, right? Turns out it’s not the whole story; it’s not even half.

People, planets, stars and galaxies are all made of “regular matter”. But we know regular matter makes up just one-sixth of all the matter in the universe.

The rest is made of what we call “dark matter”. Its name tells you almost everything we know about it. It doesn’t emit light (so we call it “dark”) and it has mass (so we call it “matter”).

If It’s Invisible, How Do We Know It’s There?

When we observe the way things move in space, we find time and again that we can’t explain our observations if we consider only what we can see.

Spinning galaxies are a great example. Most galaxies spin at speeds that can’t be explained by the gravitational pull from visible matter alone.

So there must be dark matter in these galaxies, providing extra gravity and allowing them to spin faster – without parts being flung off into space. We think dark matter literally holds galaxies together.

Cluster of galaxies displayed in hues of pink and purple against a black cosmic background.
The ‘Bullet Cluster’ is a massive cluster of galaxies which has been interpreted as being strong evidence for the existence of dark matter. NASA

So there must be an enormous amount of dark matter in the universe, pulling on all the things we can see. It’s passing through you, too, like some kind of cosmic ghost. You just can’t feel it.

How Could We Detect It?

Many scientists believe dark matter could be composed of hypothetical particles called axions. Axions were originally proposed as part of a solution to another major problem in particle physics called the “strong CP problem” (which we could write a whole article about).

Anyway, after the axion was proposed, scientists realised the particle could also make up dark matter under certain conditions. That’s because axions are expected to have very weak interactions with regular matter, but still have some mass: the two conditions needed for dark matter.

So how do you go about searching for axions?

Well, since dark matter is thought to be all around us, we can build detectors right here on Earth. And, luckily, the theory that predicts axions also predicts that axions can convert into photons (particles of light) under the right conditions.

This is good news, because we’re great at detecting photons. And this is exactly what ORGAN does. It engineers the correct conditions for axion–photon conversion and looks for weak photon signals – little flashes of light generated by dark matter passing through the detector.

This kind of experiment is called an axion haloscope and was first proposed in the 1980s. There are a few in the world today, each one slightly different in important ways.

The ORGAN Experiment’s main detector. A small copper cylinder called a ‘resonant cavity’ traps photons generated during dark matter conversion. The cylinder is bolted to a ‘dilution refrigerator’ which cools the experiment to very low temperatures. Author provided

Shining A Light On Dark Matter

An axion is believed to convert into a photon in the presence of a strong magnetic field. In a typical haloscope, we generate this magnetic field using a big electromagnet called a “superconducting solenoid”.

Inside the magnetic field we place one or several hollow chambers of metal, which are meant to trap the photons and cause them to bounce around inside, making them easier to detect.

However, there is one hiccup. Everything that has a temperature constantly emits small random flashes of light (which is why thermal imaging cameras work). These random emissions, or “noise”, make it harder to detect the faint dark matter signals we’re looking for.

To work around this, we’ve placed our resonator in a “dilution refrigerator”. This fancy fridge cools the experiment to cryogenic temperatures, about −273°C, which greatly reduces the noise.

The colder the experiment is, the better we can “listen” for faint photons produced during dark matter conversion.

Targeting Mass Regions

An axion of a certain mass will convert into a photon of a certain frequency, or colour. But since the mass of axions is unknown, experiments must target their search to different regions, focusing on those where dark matter is considered more likely to exist.

If no dark matter signal is found, then either the experiment is not sensitive enough to hear the signal above the noise, or there’s no dark matter in the corresponding axion mass region.

When this happens, we set an “exclusion limit” – which is just a way of saying “we didn’t find any dark matter in this mass range, to this level of sensitivity”. This tells the rest of the dark matter research community to direct their searches elsewhere.

ORGAN is the most sensitive experiment in its targeted frequency range. Its recent run detected no dark matter signals. This result has set an important exclusion limit on the possible characteristics of axions.

This is the first phase of a multi-year plan to search for axions. We’re currently preparing the next experiment, which will be more sensitive and target a new, as-yet-unexplored mass range.

But Why Does Dark Matter Matter?

Well, for one, we know from history that when we invest in fundamental physics, we end up developing important technologies. For instance, all modern computing relies on our understanding of quantum mechanics.

We never would have discovered electricity, or radio waves, if we didn’t pursue things that, at the time, appeared to be strange physical phenomena beyond our understanding. Dark matter is the same.

Consider everything humans have accomplished by understanding just one-sixth of the matter in the universe – and imagine what we could do if we unlocked the rest.The Conversation

Ben McAllister, Research Fellow, Department of Physics, The University of Western Australia

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

3 reasons why women leaders actually matter for women

Indonesia’s first and only female president Megawati Sukarnoputri at a campaign rally in 1999. Jonathan Perugia/AP
Ramona VijeyarasaUniversity of Technology Sydney

There are currently just 30 female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Moldova and Barbados are the only two countries where women occupy both the positions of president and prime minister, while Bangladesh is the only nation where a woman has led for more years than a man over the last half century.

Clearly, women leaders matter as a question of gender equity, but as my research shows, they may also matter to women in other ways.

I looked at four different female presidents in three different political systems: the Philippines’ first female president, Corazon Aquino (1986–1992) and its second female leader, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001–2010); Indonesia’s first and only female president, Megawati Sukarnoputri (2001–2004); and Sri Lanka’s Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK).

CBK, who was Sri Lanka’s fifth president from 1994 to 2005, followed in the footsteps of her mother, Sirimavo Bandarnaike, the world’s first female elected head of government in 1960.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga meets South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela at the Commonweath Heads of Government meeting in 1997. Max Nash/AP

I was interested in the difference these women leaders made on women’s lives through the law. However, I did not want to blindly place a positive spin on the impact women have as presidents.

My research used the Gender Legislative Index, which relies on human evaluators and machine learning to determine how well laws advance women’s rights. The index indicated whether the laws enacted during these leaders’ tenures were “good” for women.

Of course, “women” are not a monolithic category with the same interests and needs. And nor are women leaders all the same. But there are three reasons why women leaders may matter more to women.

1. Bringing Women Up The Ladder

Appointment powers are central to presidential leadership. President Macapagal Arroyo herself acknowledged to me that President Aquino had “paved the way” for her, in multiple ways.

Aquino had invited Macapagal-Arroyo to join her government as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, right, is greeted by former president Fidel Ramos, as former president Corazon Aquino, centre, looks on in 2003. Bullit Marquez/AP

Cabinet members directly influence what bills are introduced into the national legislature. Yet women have traditionally held fewer ministerial posts. Those held were often positions with discernible “feminine” characteristics or “low-prestige” portfolios, such as ageing, children and the family.

Of the four women I studied, like female leaders in Latin America, three appointed more women to their cabinets than the male leaders who preceded them. President Megawati, whose female appointees matched her predecessor, was the exception.

Aquino was known for appointing empowered political women to her administration such as Dr Lourdes Reynes Quisumbing, the country’s first female Secretary of Education and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, appointed head of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. Defensor-Santiago later ran for president (unsuccessfully) and was the first Southeast Asian elected to the International Criminal Court.

Miriam Defensor Santiago pictured in 2016. Mark R. Cristino/EPA

Among Kumaratunga’s seven female appointees, one was responsible for housing, construction and development, a significant portfolio in Sri Lanka.

Arroyo appointed a remarkable 12 women cabinet members (compared to two under her predecessor). Such female appointees potentially (although not necessarily) open the door to better representation of women’s interests.

2. Legislating For Women

Few women leaders in history have been acknowledged as advocates for women. Yet in certain fields, laws may be enacted at a faster pace when women’s groups mobilise more resources to exploit a window of opportunity.

Indonesia’s Elimination of Violence in the Household Act, signed into law by President Megawati in 2004, took seven years to enact. As a point of contrast, Indonesia’s Marriage Law (Law No. 1/1974), which regulated polygamy and forced marriage and better protected women’s assets, was debated for 75 years before passing.

In Sri Lanka, CBK managed the Asian tsunami at the tail-end of her tenure. In the post-tsunami recovery, she focused on widows, livelihood assistance for women and the appointment of women in disaster management committees at all levels.

President Macapagal-Arroyo was a senator when she authored a bill to combat violence against women. It was eventually re-tabled and expanded into the Philippines’ Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act, which she signed into law in 2004. Yet Macapagal-Arroyo’s role in the law’s enactment is often brushed over by women’s groups.

3. The Significance Of ‘Madam’ President

The role model effect is hard to prove but everywhere I turned, informants noted the significance of having a woman lead. As the first female presidents of their nations, Aquino, Kumaratunga and Megawati shifted norms around politics, which had been seen as a place exclusively for men and inappropriate for women.

The utterance of “She” or “Madam” means far more than a simple shift in gender pronoun. Sri Lanka’s “mother-daughter duo” as president and prime minister was a stark contrast to Sri Lanka today. Male leader, President Rajapaksa, recently fled the country after severe economic mismanagement, only to be replaced by another man, the former prime minister (Ranil Wickramasinghe) – hardly a new beginning.

While comparisons have their limitations, the 11 years of leadership under CBK were a period of relative stability for a nation that has been plagued by increasingly repressive (male) leaders in recent years.

But the role mode effect of a female leader can only last so long. For women leaders to be part of a nation’s future and not just its history, parties need to invest in enabling women currently engaged in politics to rise and successfully contest for the top job.

Not Just A Question Of Gender

There is something distinct about women’s leadership. Yet, in the words of one of Sri Lanka’s leading female Muslim activists, “the choice of leaders, their capacity and their leadership, depends on many qualities which are more human than women or men”.

It is important to acknowledge that there were setbacks for Filipino women’s reproductive health under Presidents Aquino and Macapagal Arroyo, such as the latter promoting non-scientific natural family planning.

In Indonesia meanwhile, a gender equality quota – whereby 30% of a party’s candidates must be women – was described as the most important law introduced during President Megawati’s tenure. However, she was its primary opponent and only signed the bill into law when she feared the loss of the “women’s vote” in 2004. (An election which she did, in fact, lose.)

It remains to be seen what the current crop of female leaders will mean for millions of women.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Heikki Saukkomaa/AP

Finland’s Sanna Marin, who leads a five-party coalition all headed by women, has called for more gender-responsive laws. Meanwhile Barbados’ Mia Mottley shifted the parameters of debate in her nation with a recent powerful climate change speech.

Mottley’s question, “when will leaders lead?” might just inspire the current cohort of female leaders to do more and to do better for fellow women.The Conversation

Ramona Vijeyarasa, Senior Lecturer and Juris Doctor Program Head, University of Technology Sydney and Women's Leadership Institute Australia Research Fellow, University of Technology Sydney

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

Book Of The Month: August 2022 - Kamilaroi, And Other Australian Languages By William Ridley(1819-1878)

Publication date: 1875, Publisher: Sydney, N.S.W., T. Richards, government printer

1. a member of a group of Australian Aboriginal peoples of north-eastern New South Wales.
2. the language of the Kamilaroi.
adjective; relating to the Kamilaroi or their language.

The Gamilaraay or Kamilaroi language is a Pama–Nyungan language of the Wiradhuric subgroup found mostly in south-eastern Australia. It is the traditional language of the Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi), an Indigenous Australian people. It has been noted as endangered, but the number of speakers grew from 87 in the 2011 Australian Census to 105 in the 2016 Australian Census. Thousands of Australians identify as Gamilaraay, and the language is taught in some schools.

Wirray Wirray, Guyinbaraay, Yuwaalayaay, Waalaraay and Gawambaraay are dialects; Yuwaalaraay/Euahlayi is a closely related language.
The name Gamilaraay means 'gamil-having', with gamil being the word for 'no'. Other dialects and languages are similarly named after their respective words for 'no'. (Compare the division between langues d'oïl and langues d'oc in France, distinguished by their respective words for 'yes'.)
Spellings of the name, in the language itself, include Goomeroi; Kamilaroi; Gamilaraay and Gamilaroi.

According to Robert Fuller of the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University and his colleagues, the Gamilaraay and Euahlayi peoples are a cultural grouping of north and northwest New South Wales (NSW), and the Gamilaraay dialect groups are known as Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay, while the Euahlayi (Euayelai) have a similar but distinct language.

Southern Aboriginal guides led the surveyor John Howe to the upper Hunter River above present-day Singleton in 1819. They told him that the country there was "Coomery Roy [=Gamilaraay] and more further a great way", meaning to the north-west, over the Liverpool Ranges (see O'Rourke 1997: 29). This is probably the first record of the name.

A basic wordlist collected by Thomas Mitchell in February, 1832, is the earliest written record of Gamilaraay. Presbyterian missionary William Ridley studied the language from 1852 to 1856.

A map of the tribes of New South Wales, published in 1892. Gamilaraay is marked I.

Older Australians Welcome Albanese Government’s High Priority On Aged Care Reform As Bills Introduced On First Day Of Government Business

July 27, 2022
The introduction of two aged care reform Bills on the first business day of the 47th parliament is unprecedented and indicates a welcome priority for aged care reform, says Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the peak body and leading advocate for older Australians.

Two aged care reform Bills are being introduced in this first business session –  the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022  continues the implementation of the former government’s aged care reform measures at the earliest possible moment; while the Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 implements the additional reforms that were a Labor election commitment and outlined in Anthony Albanese’s Budget Reply speech.

“These Bills are crucial steps in a reform process that when fully implemented will ensure Australia will finally enjoy the quality aged care system all older Australians deserve”, says COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates AM; “and to have them introduced today is testament to the fact that Aged Care Minister Anika Wells, strongly supported by Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler, has hit the ground running in her new portfolio.”

COTA Australia is urging the Parliament to ensure the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 is passed swiftly through the Parliament in the current sitting fortnight.  The Bill implements 14 recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission, including new residential care funding, Star Ratings for aged care providers, an Independent Pricing Authority for aged care services, greater financial and prudential oversight of providers, a code of Conduct for aged care staff, and stronger governance requirements for providers.

Mr Yates said “It was very disappointing that this Bill did not pass the last Parliament, as it has led to delays in getting key reforms underway, but that is now water under the bridge. Reintroducing it today is excellent; it has already been through Senate Committee scrutiny and parliamentary debate and should be passed forthwith.

”The Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 provides for the implementation of election commitments, including three further Royal Commission recommendations. It includes registered nurses being onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by mid-2023; giving the government the power to cap home care package fees and remove exit fees; and the publication of information on what providers spend on care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning and administration, and profits. This Bill will go through the normal Senate Committee process.

“Consumers have long argued for greater transparency of information from and about providers, who have been protected by outdated legal provisions, and have declined to take their own steps to explain how they use taxpayer and resident funds” Mr Yates said; “so we welcome the transparency provisions in this Bill, as well as the other measures.

“We want to see this Bill also dealt with by Parliament as a priority measure and enacted as soon as possible.  The Labor Government has an election mandate for these measures and older people have been waiting too long for reform. This is about the right of older people to receive quality care, adequately funded services, strong consumer protections and transparency – we can’t afford to wait any longer,” Mr Yates said.

100,000 Seniors Now Using Digital Seniors Card

July 28, 2022
Seniors in NSW are continuing to embrace digital with more than 100,000 people now taking advantage of the digital Seniors Card.

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said while there would always be a non-digital version, it was great to see so many seniors taking advantage of the digital option to access discounts and benefits on dining out, entertainment and travel.

“This milestone shows the seniors of NSW are confidently using digital products and demonstrates the real impact and benefits these solutions can have in all age groups,” Mr Dominello said.

“After a successful pilot in March involving 4,000 people, we are currently seeing more than 30,000 people getting their digital Seniors Card each month.

“We are now looking at ways we can continue to expand the program with a focus on businesses, and we are developing an application process similar to the successful Dine & Discover NSW program which will enable many more to easily sign up.”

Minister for Seniors Mark Coure said it was great to see 100,000 people take up the digital option in just a few months.

“The Seniors Card has come a long way since it was first introduced in 1992—it is now the largest program of its kind in Australia,” Mr Coure said.

“For 30 years, it has been helping ease the cost of living for card holders by providing access to discounts and rebates at shops, travel, entertainment, and professional services providers.

“There are more than 6,500 businesses and service providers with discounts, and I encourage more to follow.”

To find instructions on how to add a digital Seniors or Senior Savers Card to the Service NSW app, or to learn more visit Service NSW

Researcher Awarded For Infection Work

July 26, 2022
The 2022 Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research has been awarded to a leading researcher tackling healthcare-associated infection, Professor Brett Mitchell from Avondale University.

One in 10 patients in an Australian hospital acquires an infection during their stay. This is a major cause of complications and a significant burden on the healthcare system.

The Health Minister’s Award recognises Professor Mitchell’s outstanding research in infection control, as well as his vision to generate evidence for practical approaches to prevent common healthcare-associated infections.

This Award is given annually to the top-ranked recipient of a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant in the Emerging Leadership Level 2 category in the previous year’s round.

With his Investigator Grant, Professor Mitchell is working towards the prevention of infections that occur as a consequence of receiving healthcare – in both hospital and community settings – providing a strong foundation for transformation of clinical practice and policy, in Australia and internationally.

With this Award, Professor Mitchell will receive a further $50,000 to support his research in addition to his $1.5 million five-year Investigator Grant.

Professor Brett Mitchell completed his PhD at the Australian Catholic University in 2013. He was Professor in Nursing at The University of Newcastle School of Nursing and Midwifery and is now Professor of Health Services Research and Nursing at Avondale University.

The Investigator Grant scheme is one of NHMRC’s flagship funding schemes and provides five-year funding security for high-performing researchers by providing a salary and a research support package. It is extremely competitive with many high-quality applications from exceptional researchers received in each round.

The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said, “Infection control is a major health concern globally, particularly in the face of rising resistance to antimicrobial drugs. Professor Mitchell’s research is critical in finding ways to stop infection before it starts.

“My congratulations to Professor Mitchell. This award recognises the excellence of his research, drawing on his clinical nursing experience, and his role in finding evidence-based solutions to prevent infection in clinical settings.

“Professor Mitchell’s research demonstrates the value of working with local health networks, hospitals and industry partners to find practical solutions to a major and growing health problem.”

Inflation And The Aged Pension The Hare And The Tortoise

July 27, 2022
National Seniors Australia says today’s inflation figure shows the pension is again playing catch up with the soaring cost of living.

Australia’s peak, not-for-profit consumer and advocacy organisation for older Australians, says the figure of 6.1% (the highest since 2001) has already outstripped the last increase to the pension of just $20.10 per fortnight back in March.

National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke says pensioners will have to wait months for any respite.

“The next increase is not until September and by then inflation will have leapt ahead of the pension and they will be left even further behind,” Mr Henschke said.

“It’s like the hare and the tortoise, no sooner do we try to get ahead of the cost of living and any increase has already been gobbled up by soaring inflation.”

National Seniors says when there is runaway inflation, the pension should be adjusted quarterly.

“Clearly adjusting the pension twice a year when we have runaway inflation is not fair,” said Mr Henschke.

He also says the ‘Let Pensioners Work’ campaign should be adopted by the government at this time of high cost of living and record job vacancies.

“Our research shows that almost 20% of pensioners say they would consider a return to work and their prime reason is because they need the money.

“If pensioners could work without losing so much of their pension and just pay income tax like everyone else it would be a win for them and a win for the economy.”

Housing Taxation In OECD Countries: New Report

The latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report into housing and taxation has revealed that homes in Australia are disproportionately in the hands of older and wealthier Australians. This, according to the OECD report, is a direct result of how our current taxation system and benefits are structured.  

In Australia, there is no capital gains tax on your principal place of residence, which the OECD report suggests mostly benefits higher-income and wealthier households, and is a drain on government budgets. The value of this exemption in 2021 was $64 billion, making it the largest tax concession. 

The OECD recommends the Australian Government "consider capping the capital gains tax exemption … to ensure that the highest-value gains are taxed" and that this could help ease the pressure on house prices.  

Economists have long argued that the current 50% capital gains tax discount allows wealthier investors to flip properties at a profit with minimal tax impacts, which ends up costing the government $10 billion a year.  

The report suggests young people are being locked out of the housing market, which is increasingly being dominated by richer, older men with almost 80% of the CGT discount benefits going to those aged over 50 and women receiving less than 40% of these benefits. 

The report indicated that between 1981 and 2016, home ownership for households aged 25 to 34 dropped by 40 percentage points for the lower 20% of income earners and 7 percentage points for their counterparts in the top 20% of income earners.  

"In Australia, the decline in home ownership rates between generations has been significantly more pronounced for bottom-income households than for top-income households," the report noted. 

“High-income households hold a disproportionately large share of housing debt but lower-income households with mortgages generally face higher debt burdens. 

“Home ownership and housing wealth are strongly associated with age. Older households tend to have high levels of housing wealth but low levels of income, raising potential liquidity concerns linked to the taxation of housing. 

“Evidence also shows that home ownership rates have been declining for younger generations, particularly lower-income and lower-wealth households.”

Access the Housing Taxation in OECD Countries online here

AvPals Term 3 2022: Training At Newport

Avpals are proud to present our training schedule for term 3 at the Newport Community Centre. You can enrol online, make inquiries online, even pay online. Spaces are limited. We are complying with every aspect of Covid Care. 

To sign up visit:

The timetable is below:

Delivering A Plan To Fix Aged Care

July 27, 2022
The Australian Government, the Albanese Ministry, introduced legislation today to deliver our commitments to fix the crisis in aged care, and usher in a new funding model for residential aged care.

The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 will require a qualified registered nurse to be on site in every residential aged care home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring older Australians living in residential aged care receive immediate care when needed.   

The former Morrison Government ignored the Royal Commission’s recommendation that nursing homes should have a RN on site 24/7, the incumbent government states

''We are also delivering on our election commitment to improve transparency in the aged care system, with the Bill introducing measures to monitor the costs associated with aged care, placing greater responsibility on providers to be transparent and fair.

This will see the publication of more information about providers’ operations including what they are spending money on.

The legislation also delivers on our election commitment to stop the rorting of Home Care fees, by placing a cap on how much can be charged in administration and management fees.

This means home care users can be confident their money is going directly to care – not the bottom line of providers.

Also introduced today, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 contains nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system, and responds to 17 recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Royal Commission Response Bill provides the legislative framework for the new AN-ACC funding model for residential aged care homes, which will replace the outdated Aged Care Funding Instrument in October 2022.

This framework will offer more equitable funding, better matched to providers’ costs in delivering the care residents need.

It also extends the functions of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority, which will lead to better price-setting for aged care homes.

Other measures enshrine transparency and accountability of approved providers, and improve quality of care and safety for older Australians receiving aged care services.

This includes the Star Ratings System, which will see the Department of Health and Aged Care publish a comparison rating for all residential aged care services by the end of 2022; an extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to all in home care providers from 1 December 2022, meaning increased protection for older Australians from preventable incidents, abuse and neglect; and a new Code of Conduct for approved providers, their workforce and governing persons.''

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese said, “We are wasting no time getting on with the job with fixing the aged care system.

“The introduction of this legislation is the first step towards delivering new funding, more staff and better support to the sector, while improving transparency and accountability.

“We are using this first sitting week of the 47th Parliament to take important first steps towards fixing aged care and protecting vulnerable Australians, while addressing the challenges in our economy. “

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler said, “We’re delivering on our commitment to putting nurses back into nursing homes and improve transparency in aged care.

“ Every person with a loved one living in residential aged care expects, is the peace of mind in knowing aged care residents have access to clinical care from a qualified, registered nurse when they need it, 24 hours a day, every day.”

“This legislation delivers on the Government’s major reform agenda to protect the safety, dignity and wellbeing of every older Australian accessing aged care services.”

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells said, “This Implementing Care Reform Bill will put nurses back into nursing homes; it will put a stop to high administration and management fees for home care, which means more dollars go to care and support; and it will improve integrity and accountability for residential aged care homes.”

“We have introduced urgent legislation for a new funding model that will increase funding to aged care providers that was left languishing by the former Government because they couldn’t work with the Senate.”

“This legislation demonstrates our commitment to making public what aged care providers are spending their money on, ensuring a fair and transparent system for our older Australians and their families and carers.”

“24/7 registered nurses in residential aged care is a significant and much needed change to ensure high quality care for older Australians. This will be supported by the initiatives we have in place to grow and boost the skills of aged care nurses.”

“Publishing Star Rating for residential aged care homes will help people meaningfully compare services to make the right choice for themselves or their loved ones”

Capability Review Of The Aged Care Quality And Safety Commission

July 28, 2022
The Australian Government, the Albanese Ministry, has announced it will conduct a capability review of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Minister for Aged Care the Hon. Anika Wells today confirmed that the capability review would proceed after the former Morrison Government failed to act on the Royal Commission recommendation.
“Australians told us that quality and safety in aged care is of utmost importance, and the Albanese Labor Government is progressing this review,” Minister Wells said.
“The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is responsible for protecting and improving the safety, health, wellbeing and quality of life for older Australians receiving funded aged care services. 
“It is critical that the Commission is fit for purpose.”
This review will consider whether the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has the appropriate resources, workforce, necessary regulatory and investigatory skills, clinical knowledge, assessment skills and enforcement skills, to meet its regulatory responsibilities and keep older Australians safe.
The review will report back in the first half of 2023.
“We will continue to work closely with the Commission to deliver the significant reforms introduced to Parliament, including the extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to in-home care, introduction of a new Code of Conduct, establishment of Star Ratings, and new provider governance reforms,” Minister Wells said.
The appointment of an independent reviewer with the appropriate expertise and experience to deliver such an important piece of work will be announced shortly.

Clues To Age-Related Macular Degeneration Revealed

July 26, 2022
Better diagnosis and treatment of the incurable eye disease age-related macular degeneration is a step closer, thanks to the discovery of new genetic signatures of the disease.

Scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the University of Melbourne, the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania and the Centre for Eye Research Australia, reprogrammed stem cells to create models of diseased eye cells, and then analysed DNA, RNA and proteins to pinpoint the genetic clues.

"We've tested the way that differences in people's genes impact the cells involved in age-related macular degeneration. At the smallest scale we've narrowed down specific types of cells to pinpoint the genetic markers of this disease," says joint lead author Professor Joseph Powell, Pillar Director of Cellular Science at Garvan. "This is the basis of precision medicine, where we can then look at what therapeutics might be most effective for a person's genetic profile of disease."

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD is the progressive deterioration of the macular -- a region in the centre of the retina and towards the back of the eye -- leading to possible impairment or loss of central vision. Around one in seven Australians over the age of 50 is affected, and about 15 per cent of those aged over 80 have vision loss or blindness.

The underlying causes of the deterioration remain elusive, but genetic and environmental factors contribute. Risk factors include age, family history and smoking.

The research is published today in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers took skin samples from 79 participants with and without the late stage of AMD, called geographic atrophy. Their skin cells were reprogrammed to revert to stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells, and then guided with molecular signals to become retinal pigment epithelium cells, which are the cells affected in AMD.

Retinal pigment epithelium cells line the back of the retina and are essential to the health and functioning of the retina. Their degeneration is associated with the death of photoreceptors, which are light-sensing neurons in the retina that transmit visual signals to the brain and are responsible for the loss of vision in AMD.

Analysis of 127,600 cells revealed 439 molecular signatures associated with AMD, with 43 of those being potential new gene variants. Key pathways that were identified were subsequently tested within the cells and revealed differences in the energy-making mitochondria between healthy and AMD cells, rendering mitochondrial proteins as potential targets to prevent or alter the course of AMD.

Further, the molecular signatures can now be used for screening of treatments using patient-specific cells in a dish.

"Ultimately, we are interested in matching the genetic profile of a patient to the best drug for that patient. We need to test how they work in cells relevant to the disease," says co-lead of the study Professor Alice Pébay, from the University of Melbourne.

Professor Powell and co-lead authors Professor Pébay, and Professor Alex Hewitt from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Tasmania and the Centre for Eye Research Australia, have a long-running collaboration to investigate the underlying genetic causes of complex human diseases.

"We have been building a program of research where we're interested in stem cell studies to model disease at very large scale to do screening for future clinical trials," says Professor Hewitt.

In another recent study, the researchers uncovered genetic signatures of glaucoma -- a degenerative eye disease causing blindness -- using stem cell models of the retina and optic nerve.

The researchers are also turning their attention to the genetic causes of Parkinson's and cardiovascular diseases.

Anne Senabouth, Maciej Daniszewski, Grace E. Lidgerwood, Helena H. Liang, Damián Hernández, Mehdi Mirzaei, Stacey N. Keenan, Ran Zhang, Xikun Han, Drew Neavin, Louise Rooney, Maria Isabel G. Lopez Sanchez, Lerna Gulluyan, Joao A. Paulo, Linda Clarke, Lisa S. Kearns, Vikkitharan Gnanasambandapillai, Chia-Ling Chan, Uyen Nguyen, Angela M. Steinmann, Rachael A. McCloy, Nona Farbehi, Vivek K. Gupta, David A. Mackey, Guy Bylsma, Nitin Verma, Stuart MacGregor, Matthew J. Watt, Robyn H. Guymer, Joseph E. Powell, Alex W. Hewitt, Alice Pébay. Transcriptomic and proteomic retinal pigment epithelium signatures of age-related macular degeneration. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31707-4

Chores, Exercise, And Social Visits Linked To Lower Risk Of Dementia

July 27, 2022
Physical and mental activities, such as household chores, exercise, and visiting with family and friends, may help lower the risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the July 27, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at the effects of these activities, as well as mental activities and use of electronic devices in people both with and without higher genetic risk for dementia.

"Many studies have identified potential risk factors for dementia, but we wanted to know more about a wide variety of lifestyle habits and their potential role in the prevention of dementia," said study author Huan Song, MD, PhD, of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. "Our study found that exercise, household chores, and social visits were linked to a reduced risk of various types of dementia."

The study involved 501,376 people from a UK database without dementia with an average age of 56.

Participants filled out questionnaires at the beginning of the study, including one on physical activities. They were asked how often they participated in activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking, and participating in strenuous sports. They were also asked about household chores, job-related activities, and what kind of transportation they used, including walking or biking to work.

Participants completed another questionnaire on mental activities. They were asked about their education level, whether they attend adult education classes, how often they visit with friends and family, visit pubs or social clubs or religious groups, and how often they use electronic devices such as playing computer games, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

Additionally, participants reported whether they had any immediate family members with dementia. This helped researchers determine if they had a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. Study participants were followed an average of 11 years. At the end of the study, 5,185 people had developed dementia.

After adjusting for multiple factors such as age, income, and smoking, researchers found that most physical and mental activities studied showed links to the risk of dementia. Importantly, the findings remain after considering the high correlations and interactions of these activities. People who were highly engaged in activity patterns including frequent exercises, household chores, and daily visits of family and friends had 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia, respectively, compared to people who were the least engaged in these activity patterns.

Researchers also looked at dementia incidence rates by identified activity patterns. The rate in people who exercised frequently was 0.45 cases for every 1,000 person-years compared to 1.59 for people who rarely exercised. Person-years take into account the number of people in a study as well as the amount of time spent in the study. Those who frequently did household chores had a rate of 0.86 cases for every 1,000 person-years compared to 1.02 for people who rarely did household chores. People who visited family daily had a rate of 0.62 cases for every 1,000 person-years compared to 0.8 cases for those who only visited friends and family once every few months.

"Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities people may reduce their risk of dementia," Song said. "More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial."

The researchers found that all participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, whether or not they had a family history of dementia.

A limitation of the study was that people reported their own physical and mental activity, so they may not have remembered and reported these activities correctly.

The study was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and National Clinical Research Center for Geriatrics.

Jianwei Zhu, Fenfen Ge, Yu Zheng, Yuanyuan Qu, Wenwen Chen, Huazhen Yang, Lei Yang, Fang Fang, Huan Song. Physical and Mental Activity, Disease Susceptibility, and Risk of Dementia A Prospective Cohort Study Based on UK Biobank. Neurology, 2022 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200701

‘Weekend warrior’ exercise still lowers risk of premature death – new research

Only exercising on weekends can still be good for your health. Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock
Jonathan TaylorTeesside University and Michael GrahamTeesside University

We’re all told time and again just how important it is to exercise for good health. But with our busy schedules, finding the time to work out is often easier said than done. For many of us, the weekend is the only time we can get to the gym or go for a run.

UK exercise guidelines suggest that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) a week for good health. But debate is growing around the issue of whether or not you can still get the benefits of exercise if you squeeze it all in on a weekend (sometimes called “weekend warrior” exercise) instead of spreading it throughout the week. This is what a recent study sought to find out.

They found that weekend warrior exercise still has many benefits to health – with the study showing people who only exercise two days a week had lower risk of premature death from any cause, compared to people who do not exercise. But, they also found that spreading your workouts throughout the week was associated with the greatest benefits for your health.

To conduct their study, the researchers looked at more than 60,000 adults aged 40 and over. Data on the participants was collected by the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey between 1994 and 2012. Participants were also asked about their exercise habits.

Participants were then categorised as being a “weekend warrior” (meeting recommended activity guidelines over a minimum one to two days per week), “regularly active” (meeting recommended activity guidelines over a minimum of three days per week), “insufficiently active” (exercising less than recommended) or “inactive”. Using data from the surveys and The British National Health Service Central Registry for Deaths, the authors then compared how many from each category had died during the study.

Weekend warrior exercisers had a 30% lower risk of premature death from all causes compared to inactive people. Risk of death from cardiovascular disease was also around 40% lower, while risk of death from all types of cancer was around 18% lower compared to those who were inactive.

Of course, regularly active people had the best health overall – and had a 5% lower risk of premature death from any cause compared to weekend warriors. This finding is consistent with previous research, which suggests the more exercise you do, the more beneficial it is to your health. But this is only true up to a certain point – with research showing that doing more than five times the minimum recommended weekly activity (the equivalent of around 12.5 hours of moderately exercise, or just over six hours of vigorous activity) has no added benefits.

Weekend Warriors

It’s well-known that exercise improves our cardiorespiratory fitness, which is important for making sure our heart and lungs function effectively. Not only does this allow us to exercise longer and more intensely, it also improves other aspects of our health – such as lowering blood pressure. This is also likely the reason research shows people who exercise regularly have lower risk of premature death from any cause.

An adult couple go for a run in the city.
Exercise leads to a number of beneficial changes in our body. G-Stock Studio/ Shutterstock

Exercise also lowers body fat and reduces inflammation, which may all explain why physical activity reduces risk of death from cancer.

But research shows that how often you exercise is also important for improving and maintaining fitness. In fact, as little as 72 hours between workouts is enough for “detraining” to happen. This refers to the partial or complete loss of training adaptations (such as better cardiovascular function) that happens when we stop exercising. While some detraining is likely to happen in people who only exercise on weekends, consistently training – even if it’s only on weekends – will still lead to adaptations that are good for health.

While this research gives hope to those who can’t exercise regularly, it must be interpreted with caution. The study has limitations, as acknowledged by the authors. The data was self-reported by participants, some of whom may have embellished the amount of exercise they really did. Also, the amount of exercise participants reported on only referred to the amount they did in the four weeks prior to the interview, which might not actually represent how much they did for the duration of the 20-year study. The researchers also excluded the physical activity a person did as part of their job. This is relevant as it can also contribute to lower risk of death from disease.

The key message from this study is that doing some physical activity is better than doing nothing. So if you can only get your workouts in on weekends, you’re still likely to have better health compared to someone who does not exercise regularly. But the more regular physical activity you can do, the better.

Exercise, combined with a proper diet, is essential for good health. Adding in resistance training (such as weight lifting) alongside cardio may help further boost the benefits of exercise on your health.The Conversation

Jonathan Taylor, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise, Teesside University and Michael Graham, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science, Teesside University

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

The Manly pride jersey furore is not as simple as a choice between inclusivity and homophobia

AAP/Steven Saphore
Gina Louise HawkesUniversity of Wollongong

This week, seven NRL players boycotted a potentially crucial season game over their club’s introduction of a “pride” jersey celebrating inclusivity and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Six of these players are of Pacific Island heritage. There has been much discussion of the players’ culture and religion in the aftermath of the bungled jersey release. But as Fijian scholar Jioji Ravulo has argued, homophobia is not “part of” Pasifika cultures, but rather part of ongoing colonial legacies.

I have previously conducted research on how “masculine” sports such as rugby league were used in the Pacific to promote the British ideology of “muscular Christianity”. This in turn helped create the contemporary relationship between family, faith and football for the Australian Pasifika diaspora.

In times like this, when high-profile sporting entities are thrown into the identity politics spotlight, it is important to try to understand some of the historical connections between the sport and gender and sexual diversity in the Pacific Islands.

What Is ‘Muscular Christianity’?

“Muscular Christianity” is the belief that by participating in sports, young men would become imbued with positive character traits enabling them to be as capable in the classroom or workforce as they were on the field. The concept migrated to the Pacific through British colonialists, particularly the British school boy system and its use of sports to create the “good” Christian.

While the field became a place men could let off steam, Indigenous men were often limited to this physical realm only and pushed away from intellectual pursuits, creating the manual workforce needed for Empire building. Māori scholar Brendan Hokowhitu’s work shows how British colonialists in Aotearoa symbolically and physically moved Māori out of the classroom and into manual labour. This construction of Māori men as purely athletic was being similarly fostered across the Pacific, where the illusion of the “noble savage” was taking hold.

The Impact Of Colonial Masculinity

This colonial reframing of Pasifika masculinity also sought to classify “right” and “wrong”, particularly when it came to gender and sex. An important aspect of colonial masculinity was the suppression of sexual complexity and qualities that were deemed “feminine”.

In the Pacific Islands, this included introducing distinct boundaries between men and women, and the delegitimising of anything in between. Before colonialism, gender was understood in what we may think is a very modern, Western way, but what has actually been understood amongst many Indigenous cultures for centuries: that is, a “gender spectrum” or the idea that there are many gender identities.

Several Manly players have refused to wear the ‘pride’ jersey. AAP/Many Warringah Sea Eagles handout

In Samoa and Tonga, for example, the gender fluid fa‘afafine and fakaleiti were merged with European understandings of homosexuality with such success that we now know very little about their roles pre-contact. At the same time, homosexuality was condemned as un-Christian, perverted and wrong – both symbolically, and in many cases, legally.

This combination of muscular Christianity, sports, and the moralisation of gender meant that to be a “good” man was to be not only strong and disciplined, but heterosexual and God-fearing.

Individual Freedoms Vs Family And Faith

In my interviews with second-generation Pasifika people in Australia, the phrase “faith before footy” was common. However, the nature of faith was changing, with family becoming more central than the institution.

Pasifika scholars have explained that rather than the individualistic philosophy of “I think therefore I am” governing how they see themselves, Pasifika and Māori people work more within a framework of “I belong therefore I am”.

Relationships are where strength and identity are created, which is what makes it so difficult to go against family beliefs. It might be hard for people who have a strong sense of individual freedom to comprehend the complex pull of family and faith to one’s very existence, but for many Pasifika people, not belonging could feel utterly catastrophic.

Sport has always been a political space, and in Australia it has a symbolic potency that makes it a powerful arena for spreading positive messages.

Hopefully the conversations this latest controversy has started outweigh the negative effects, particularly on young, vulnerable queer people. It is hoped we might soon reach a space where gender and sexual diversity in rugby league can be as celebrated as racial and ethnic diversity has been for some time.

With their large and conspicuous presence on the field, Pasifika people play a role in this, but it’s not solely their responsibility. It is up to the decision makers at all levels of the game to learn how to foster inclusion for all.The Conversation

Gina Louise Hawkes, Research associate, University of Wollongong

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

4 in 10 nursing homes have a COVID outbreak and the death rate is high. What’s going wrong?

Hal SwerissenLa Trobe University

Around 3% (6,100) of the 200,000 residents in Australia’s aged care facilities had COVID, as of July 22, in addition to 3,400 staff.

About 1,000 facilities – nearly 40% of the total – had an outbreak.

Aged care residents are also disproportionately dying of COVID. Those in nursing homes account for nearly 30% of the 11,000 deaths from COVID in Australia throughout the pandemic.

Why Is This Happening?

Age is a major risk factor for COVID. People aged 70 and over make up 85% of all reported COVID deaths.

People in residential care are the most frail and at risk. Aged care residents make up around 40% of the deaths of older Australians, but only about 5% of the population aged 65 and over live in residential care.

We’ve long known how to reduce the spread of COVID and unnecessary deaths. Effective responses throughout the aged care sector include:

  • all residents and staff being fully vaccinated
  • appropriate availability of personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests (RATs)
  • mask mandates for staff and visitors
  • widespread use of antiviral treatments for those who catch COVID
  • rapid responses to outbreaks, including a surge workforce and coordination with home care, GPs and hospital services.

But while mask mandates remain a requirement in residential aged care for staff and visitors, and RATS and PPE are now generally available, the other responses are still patchy, piecemeal and poorly coordinated.


Vaccination is the most important protection against COVID. People who are unvaccinated are about 50 times more likely to die from COVID compared with those who are fully vaccinated.

Yet, vaccinations in residential aged care has been a shambles. Early on in the rollout for aged care, staff weren’t fully vaccinated, there were squabbles over staff vaccination mandates, vaccination data was unavailable, and it was unclear who was responsible for making sure vaccination occurred.

While mandates have lifted worker vaccination rates, in June this year, only 50% of aged care residents were fully boosted with fourth doses.

That has improved following pressure from the new government. But even now, a quarter of residents are still not fully vaccinated with recommended boosters.

More needs to be done to systematically follow up facilities with low vaccination rates.

Nurse puts bandaid on resident's arm
One in four residents aren’t fully boosted. Shutterstock


Early use of antivirals significantly reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID, possibly as much as 80%.

It has been clear for about six months that antivirals are a safe and effective COVID treatment. However, it wasn’t until July 11 that the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer advised that all Australians 70 or older should be offered antiviral treatment within 24 hours when they test positive for COVID (where clinically appropriate).

The reality is that many older people who could benefit from antivirals aren’t getting them and they are going to waste, with thousands of doses nearing their use-by dates.

Rapid Responses To Out Outbreaks

The new federal government appears to be tackling the issue with new urgency. The new aged care minister, Anika Wells, has released a “winter plan” to try to address the aged care crisis.

The plan includes prevention, outbreak management and recovery. But the plan continues to put most of the responsibility of prevention and management on individual providers – a strategy that has been ineffective in the past.

Aged care worker takes a nasal swab from a resident
Individual providers bear most responsibility for their COVID response. Shutterstock

The federal government has almost no capacity to effectively coordinate a winter response across residential care, home care and health and support services within local service networks where it is needed.

Ideally, this would see close working relationships between aged care facilities, GPs and local hospitals, including the redeployment of clinical and support staff across facilities as required. This happened in Victoria during the 2020 outbreak.

But despite the recent Royal Commission’s recommendation to do so, the federal government has not put in place local or regional bodies or authorities to plan, coordinate and manage aged care.

Staff Shortages

These pressures are hugely exacerbated by staff shortages. The over-reliance on a privatised market model for aged care and the decades-long under-investment in training, supervision, pay and conditions for aged care workers has come home to roost at the worst possible time.

Estimates suggest there is a shortfall of 35,000 workers in aged care, double the problem last year.

The industry is hoping the work value case before the Fair Work Commission will make a difference on these issues. Personal care workers in aged care are paid about the same as workers at McDonald’s – in some cases, less. Unions are arguing for a 25% increase in pay, which should make aged care a more desirable job, but this case won’t be determined for months.

In the meantime, the industry still does not have a realistic workforce strategy. The federal government is scrambling to implement short-term measures through a “surge workforce”, including the recent deployment of 200 military personnel.

But this is unlikely to be enough to address the staff shortages associated with the winter wave. Some providers are now reporting they are down 20-40% of staff.

The result is excess hospitalisation and death, misery for residents and their families, and stress for staff and providers. If the situation continues to deteriorate, this will have to become a major priority for National Cabinet.

And the already stretched state health systems will have to play a greater role to fix the immediate problems.The Conversation

Hal Swerissen, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University

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

Here’s a simple way to stop governments giving jobs to mates

Kate GriffithsGrattan InstituteAnika StobartGrattan Institute, and Danielle WoodGrattan Institute

Handing out a cushy job to a political mate might seem harmless – after all, everyone does it, right? – but the politicisation of public appointments has real, pervasive consequences for Australian democracy. Increasingly, many government boards, tribunals and independent agencies are stacked with people who have worked in politics.

A new Grattan Institute report, released today, shows that political appointments are common at state and federal levels. It reveals the costs all Australians bear when governments choose mates over merit.

Political Appointments Are Widespread

About 7% of federal government–appointed jobs in public bodies are filled by people who have worked as a politician, political adviser, candidate or party employee.

But this is just the baseline. Political appointments triple to 21% for jobs on well-paid, powerful and/or prestigious boards. That’s one in five of these top public roles. Individually, many of those people may have the right qualifications, but collectively their presence undermines these important positions.

On the boards of Australia Post and other federal government businesses – companies employing thousands of people and managing income in the billions – more than 20% of members have a political connection. In most states, the figure is above 10%. This is in stark contrast to ASX100 boards with very similar responsibilities, where fewer than 2% of board members have a direct political connection.

The boards of powerful independent government bodies, including regulators and commissions, are also filled with political appointments. Half of the members of the Productivity Commission board, for example, have a connection to the Coalition.

While skills established in a political career might be valuable, most political appointees are from the same side of politics as the government that appointed them. The signs are that mateship is prevailing over merit.

Political stacking is especially evident on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), an independent expert body that reviews government decisions on everything from child support to migration status.

The AAT has become an attractive destination for political appointments, offering the full trifecta of powerful, prestigious and well-paid (AAT member salaries range from nearly $200,000 to nearly $500,000). A staggering 20% of the AAT’s 320 tribunal members have a direct political connection to the government that appointed them.

And the problem seems to be getting worse. Political appointments to the AAT have grown substantially in the past five years. Many of these appointments were made in the lead-up to the 2019 and 2022 federal elections.

Political Appointments Damage Institutions And Trust

Public appointments shouldn’t be regarded as “nice things to give to mates”. People in these roles make important decisions that should be kept at arm’s length from government. In some cases, political appointees have significant influence over public policy.

Politicising public appointments can compromise government regulation and oversight, promote a corrupt culture and undermine public trust in the institutions of government.

“Captain’s picks” don’t always have the skills and experience needed to carry out their responsibilities effectively. A Grattan Institute analysis of performance data shows AAT members with political affiliations perform worse on average than those without. Almost a quarter (24%) of political appointees fall well short of their performance targets, compared to 17% of non-political appointees.

Even if the person appointed is fully capable of doing the job, their presence can compromise the perceived or actual independence of the institution. These appointments promote a culture of patronage in which loyalty is assumed to be more important than merit. A culture of this kind can have a chilling effect on non-political candidates and appointees too – they may fear that rocking the boat or providing frank and fearless advice will be career-limiting.

A Better Way

If Australia had a better process for making public appointments, we could be confident appointees were there on merit, whether they are politically affiliated or not.

This problem has an easy fix. Federal and state governments should establish a transparent, merit-based process for all public appointments. As the chart below shows, the new process should be legislated and overseen by a dedicated public appointments commissioner. The commissioner’s work would restore public confidence in appointees and lift the performance of public sector boards and tribunals.

This process could help change the culture: seeking the best person for the job would become the only consideration ministers bring to bear on their decisions. If the new federal government is serious about doing politics differently, this is an easy change that would make a real difference.The Conversation

Kate Griffiths, Deputy Program Director, Grattan InstituteAnika Stobart, Associate, Grattan Institute, and Danielle Wood, Chief executive officer, Grattan Institute

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

Officials resisted Morrison government’s attempt to have them ‘amplify’ election day boat arrival

AAP/Mick Tsikas
Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

Federal public servants resisted the Morrison government’s attempt to have them amplify an election-day announcement that an asylum seeker boat had been intercepted, according to an inquiry into the incident.

The government hoped publicity about the boat would reinforce its argument a Labor government would trigger the reopening of the people smuggler trade, swaying some voters at the last moment. The Liberal party sent millions of texts about the interception.

The Labor government ordered the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, Mike Pezzullo, to investigate the events of the day. The report was released by the government late Friday.

A timeline documents how the Morrison government wanted the statement about the boat’s interception sent directly to journalists and posted on social media, but officials declined to do so.

Late morning on May 21, the Minister for Home Affairs’ Office (MHAO) told the bureaucracy the Prime Minister’s Office had asked for a statement to be published about the interception. The statement was to be issued urgently.

Also, “MHAO requested for the statement to be emailed to a list of journalists identified by them. The Department advised that this was not likely a possibility and not something that has been done in the past,” the report said.

“The Department relayed the direction from MHAO to the Secretary [Pezzullo] about emailing journalists. The Secretary directed this is not to occur.”

The department told the minister’s office of Pezzullo’s position.

The minister’s office “directed that the statement be urgently published on the website and requested that the ABF [Australian Border Force] tweet the statement. The Department declined to tweet and advised that arrangements would be made to publish the statement.”

Pezzullo then directed the department that “under no circumstances” was it “to drop the story to selected journalists”. He told it the release “is to be posted to our news and media site – no more and no less”.

Just after 1pm, Morrison commenced a news conference where he was asked by a journalist about the statement – minutes before it appeared on the official website.

In a June 1 letter to Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil, accompanying the report, Pezzullo writes it was the responsibility of the minister (who was Karen Andrews) to determine whether it was in the public interest for the interception to be made public.

“The legitimate purposes for previous publications of interceptions have been considered to be for transparency and deterrence,” he writes.

“It was for the Minister to determine the purpose of the announcement.”

“The apolitical character of the public service was preserved in this instance by the refusal on the part of departmental officials to amplify the public statement by sending it directly to journalists and to post it on social media,” Pezzullo says.

“The transparency and deterrence effect was already available from the original public statement.

"Any domestic amplification was judged by officials to be primarily for political purposes. Accordingly, they declined the relevant requests.”

Pezzullo writes that had ministerial instructions been given for amplification, such action could have been contrary to the legal provision for public servants to be apolitical.

“But this potential conflict between the exercise of ministerial authority and that provision in the Act did not arise as the requests to amplify were not pressed”.

In his letter, Pezzullo suggests amending the caretaker conventions that operate during election campaigns. This would specify “that sensitive information that is potentially politically significant should not be released publicly during the caretaker period unless a threat to life exists or some other urgency concerning public safety and security is involved.”

O'Neil said in a statement that the Morrison government had “sabotaged the protocols that protect Operation Sovereign Borders for political gain”

“The report found uniformed Border Force and Defence Force members, and public servants, acted with integrity and at the highest standards at all times. They should be commended for doing so.

"The profound compromise of a military-led operation is without precedent in Australia’s history. It was disgraceful, shameful, and characteristic of a national government which frequently pursued political interests above the national interest,” she said.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.

Extra Cheers For The Green And Gold

July 25, 2022
Pubs and clubs are set to receive a major boost, after the NSW Government extended trading hours for upcoming major sports events, including the FIFA World Cup soccer finals, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket finals and the Commonwealth Games.

Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson said the late night trading hours will support the State’s venues and encourage sports fans to come together to watch all the live action on big screens.

“The NSW Government’s trading extensions for major sports and cultural events have become increasingly popular as more people get out and about and socialise in licensed venues,” Mr Anderson said.

“The late night trading not only supports hospitality businesses and the economy, it also gives sports fans the chance to head to their local to watch these great sporting events and cheer on the green and gold.

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis welcomed the announcement and said the extended trading hours will give venues across the State a major boost.

“We know the past few years have been tough for our clubs, and it’s proactive decisions like this by the NSW Government that are key to helping them in their recovery,” Mr Landis said.

“Extending trading hours during major sporting events will be great for the community, and I urge people to get out and give back to the venues that support them.”

Australian Hotels Association CEO John Whelan said there’s no better place to watch Aussie athletes compete than down at your local.

This trading extension really is a victory for common-sense and we thank Minister Anderson for the initiative after what’s been an incredibly difficult time for hotels across NSW,” Mr Whelan said.

The extended trading hours do not apply to takeaway alcohol sales. Venues already approved to trade during or beyond the extended hours can operate as usual.

Local hospitality businesses are currently benefiting from extended Alfresco dining measures, which the NSW has recently announced to further support the industry.

“The temporary measures have been incredibly successful and a huge boost to the industry, so extending them has given hospitality businesses greater certainty for at least another 18 months,” Mr Anderson said.

“The uptake has largely been in the CBD, which has been great because it suffered so significantly during the pandemic. We would also love to see more regional venues take up this opportunity and consider permanent options that reflect the community’s desire to dine outdoors year-round.”

UNSW Multilingual Graduates Set To Help The State's Diverse Communities

July 25, 2022
The new interpreters will play a crucial role in ensuring language is not a barrier to accessing information or services within communities.

With a growing number of people in NSW speaking a language other than English, interpreters are more important than ever. Photo: UNSW

More than 40 multilingual students are set to bolster the NSW government’s interpreting ranks after successfully completing its Interpreting Scholarship program, facilitated by UNSW Sydney. 

Multicultural NSW and UNSW worked together to develop the 20-week, micro-credential to qualify bilingual candidates to sit for the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) Certified Provisional Interpreter examination. A passing grade will allow them to work as interpreters for Multicultural NSW, where they will also receive additional mentoring and professional development. 

Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the new graduates will be welcome additions among the state’s interpreting professionals.  

“Multicultural NSW is Australia’s leading provider of interpreting services, and each of these graduates has a chance to join its ranks and fill shortages in key languages,” Mr Coure said. 

In 2020, Multicultural NSW recognised a gap in the supply of demand for language-specific interpreters and approached UNSW – a world leader in interpreting pedagogy and research – to develop a course to train suitable bilingual candidates and address the increasing shortfall of professional interpreters. 

Translation services in more languages
Interpreters play a crucial role in ensuring that language is not a barrier to accessing information or services within communities and UNSW collaborated with Multicultural NSW to extend its course offerings to include more languages as needed in the community.  

“Interpreting is a very difficult and demanding profession that requires high level training of competent bilinguals,” said course designer and convenor Professor Sandra Hale. “Training opportunities for many community languages have been limited in Australia. UNSW is very excited to work with Multicultural NSW to fill this critical gap, to ensure that non-English speakers in NSW can access quality interpreting services to remove the language barrier and enable their full participation in society.” 

Among the key languages the new interpreters will be covering include Filipino, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Macedonian, Nepali, Portuguese, Serbian, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese. 

Mr Coure said with a growing number of people in NSW speaking a language other than English, interpreters are more important than ever. 
“The latest census data shows us that more NSW residents are speaking a language other than English at home. Those numbers will continue to grow as more of the world’s citizens choose to find a brighter future in our great state,” Mr Coure said. 

Translators supporting their communities
“This scholarship program is about tapping into the availability of these languages in NSW, where we can create job opportunities for people to use their language skills and in turn help their communities.” 

Turkish-Australian student Sena Uzun said she felt the course had prepared her well for community interpreting after completing a bachelor’s degree in translating and interpreting in her former homeland of Turkey. 

“I think what Australia is doing in terms of providing support, and services to multicultural and linguistically diverse communities is very important,” Ms Uzun said. 

Thai-born Lydia Armour said she felt she was better equipped to support her Wollongong Thai community after the course. 

 “The level of support from Multicultural NSW and the depth of knowledge from lecturers, tutors and the Thai tutor was amazing,” Ms Armour said. 

“I’m very invested in my Thai community and this is an important way that I can ensure everyone has fairer and more equitable access to services and information.” 

ADA Short Courses is a new initiative at UNSW's Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture.

“ADA Short Courses showcase the faculty’s expertise in equitably disseminating cutting-edge research with real-world impacts, benefiting our communities. They build skills, enrich careers, and accessibly promote lifelong learning to a wider audience,” said ADA Academic Director Nicholas Apoifis.  

In 2019 the NSW government committed to providing scholarships to 400 multilingual students over four years, with 265 having already completed the program.

New Tool Uncovers 'Elegant' Mechanism Responsible For Antibiotic Tolerance In Golden Staph

July 26, 2022
An international team of researchers, including those from UNSW's School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences, have applied a promising new tool -- CLASH -- to capture hundreds of undiscovered mechanisms of gene regulation in a strain of multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The 500 mechanisms uncovered by the new tool were based on the mRNA of S. aureus. Normally serving merely as instructions for making proteins, these newly revealed mRNAs were controlling other genes in S. aureus through direct interactions -- regulating the bacteria's very own genetic information and antibiotic tolerance.

Among those RNAs found was a mechanism that thickens the bacteria's cell wall -- a change commonly seen in clinical strains of MRSA that are tolerant to last-line antibiotics -- potentially identifying new targets for antibiotic treatment. Their work has been published in Nature Communications.

"Before our study, only three other mRNAs had been shown to regulate bacterial RNA," says co-author Associate Professor Jai Tree. "It's relatively rare. But looking at our CLASH data was the real surprise. We found that in Staphylococcus aureus, there was evidence for 543 regulatory mRNAs interactions."

"This is a shift from our current understanding of gene regulation in bacteria."

This system of adaptation in S. aureus has remained undetected due to a lack of tools for broadly capturing RNA interactions. In other disease-causing bacteria, related techniques rely on the presence of particular proteins, proteins that don't seem to function in S. aureus.

If mRNA can be compared to copied pages from a recipe book, the regulatory mRNAs in S. aureus have eschewed the chef and begun dictating the pace and production of their own meals.

"When a gene (DNA) is transcribed into RNA, a little bit of extra sequence is transcribed from either side -- like the aglets of a shoelace -- these are termed the 'untranslated regions' or UTRs," says A/Prof Tree. "It's these UTRs of mRNAs in S. aureus that are performing a regulatory role.

"And where a typical UTR is 40 to 50 bases long, we found that around one-third of the UTRs in S. aureus are 100 bases long -- which is long. This likely adds an entirely new layer of gene regulation."

The particular strain of S. aureus used in this study was taken from a patient with MRSA septicaemia who was treated for 42 days with our 'last-line of defence' and most effective antibiotic: vancomycin. Since S. aureus do not acquire vancmycin tolerance extraneously from other S. aureus but evolve it through a series of mutations, the researchers analysed this strain using CLASH to understand how they were becoming vancomycin tolerant.

"One of the mRNA UTRs we discovered was a regulatory RNA that promotes an enzyme involved in cell wall thickening. It's this thickening that is consistent with vancomycin-tolerant S. aureus," says A/Prof Tree.

"We found evidence of over 500 mRNA-mRNA interactions occuring in S. aureus -- information uncovered by CLASH that allows us to ascribe functions to many regulatory RNAs in S. aureus - often for the first time.

"The 'superbug', multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a major problem in both healthcare and community settings," says A/Prof. Tree. "Treatment options for MRSA septicaemia -- infections that enter the blood -- are limited to last-line antibiotics, and the treatment of choice is vancomycin.

"Vancomycin is an antibiotic that blocks assembly of a new cell wall in S. aureus. If the bacterium can't make a new cell wall during division, it explodes. Those S. aureus tolerant to vancomycin have thicker cell walls, likely limiting antibiotic at the site of cell wall synthesis."

By revealing one of the mechanism of vancomycin tolerance in S.aureus, the once hidden line of defence is made visible for our offensive, 're-sensitising' resistant S. aureus to vancomycin again.

"There has been renewed interest in using 'antisense RNA' that can be delivered into the bacterial cell, penetrating the cell wall and binding RNAs within the cell. In this way, we might be able to co-administer an antisense RNA with vancomycin -- the antisense RNA would make MRSA sensitive and the vancomycin would kill the cell," says A/Prof Tree.

While the functions of some mRNAs in S. aureus have been ascribed, there remains a lot of work to do -- especially given the varied mechanisms behind vancomycin-tolerance S. aureus.

"The next steps are to understand if [the regulatory RNA we've already isolated] is required for a broad spectrum of other, clinical strains of vancomycin-tolerant S. aureus. These are genetically heterogenous isolates and one of the difficulties has been the multitude of methods of becoming vancomycin tolerant.

"So we would like to understand if targeting the regulatory RNA would be a useful approach for many different vancomycin tolerant strains. Although we don't know exactly what all the mRNAs are doing, our next step is to identify the really important ones."

Daniel G. Mediati, Julia L. Wong, Wei Gao, Stuart McKellar, Chi Nam Ignatius Pang, Sylvania Wu, Winton Wu, Brandon Sy, Ian R. Monk, Joanna M. Biazik, Marc R. Wilkins, Benjamin P. Howden, Timothy P. Stinear, Sander Granneman, Jai J. Tree. RNase III-CLASH of multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus reveals a regulatory mRNA 3′UTR required for intermediate vancomycin resistance. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31177-8

New Study Challenges Old Views On What's 'Primitive' In Mammalian Reproduction

July 25, 2022
Which group of mammals has the more "primitive" reproductive strategy -- marsupials, with their short gestation periods, or humans and other placental mammals, which have long gestation periods? For decades, biologists viewed marsupial reproduction as "more primitive." But University of Washington scientists have discovered that a third group of mammals, the long-extinct multituberculates, had a long gestation period like placental mammals. Since multituberculates split off from the rest of the mammalian lineage before placentals and marsupials had even evolved, these findings question the view that marsupials were "less advanced" than their placental cousins.

It's hard to imagine life on Earth without mammals. They swim in the depths of the ocean, hop across deserts in Australia and travel to the moon.

This diversity can be deceiving, at least when it comes to how mammals create the next generation. Based on how they reproduce, nearly all mammals alive today fall into one of two categories: placental mammals and marsupials. Placentals, including humans, whales and rodents, have long gestation periods. They give birth to well-developed young -- with all major organs and structures in place -- and have relatively short weaning periods, or lactation periods, during which young are nursed on milk from their mothers. Marsupials, like kangaroos and opossums, are the opposite: They have short gestation periods -- giving birth to young that are little more than fetuses -- and long lactation periods during which offspring spend weeks or months nursing and growing within the mother's pouch, or marsupium.

For decades, biologists saw the marsupial way of reproduction as the more "primitive" state, and assumed that placentals had evolved their more "advanced" method after these two groups diverged from one another. But new research is testing that view. In a paper published July 18 in The American Naturalist, a team led by researchers at the University of Washington and its Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture present evidence that another group of mammals -- the extinct multituberculates -- likely reproduced in a placental-like manner. Since multituberculates split off from the rest of the mammalian lineage before placentals and marsupials evolved, these findings question the view that marsupials were "less advanced" than their placental cousins.

"This study challenges the prevalent idea that the placental reproductive strategy is 'advanced' relative to a more 'primitive' marsupial strategy," said lead author Lucas Weaver, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan who conducted this study as a UW doctoral student. "Our findings suggest that placental-like reproduction either is the ancestral reproductive route for all mammals that give birth to live young, or that placental-like reproduction evolved independently in both multituberculates and placentals."

Multituberculates arose about 170 million years ago in the Jurassic. Most were small-bodied creatures, resembling rodents. For much of their history, multituberculates were the most abundant and diverse group of mammals. But scientists know very little about their life history, including how they reproduced, because of their generally poor fossil record. The last multituberculates died out about 35 million years ago.

Weaver reasoned that the microscopic structure of fossilized bone tissues can house useful life-history information about multituberculates, such as their growth rate. Working under co-author Gregory Wilson Mantilla, a UW professor of biology and curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Burke Museum, Weaver and his colleagues obtained cross sections of 18 fossilized femurs -- the thigh bone -- from multituberculates that lived approximately 66 million years ago in Montana.

An artistic rendering of multituberculates from the genus Mesodma — a mother with her litter of offspring — who lived in western North America about 60 to 70 million years ago. Fossil evidence indicates that these creatures were the most abundant mammals in western North America just before and directly after the mass extinction event 66 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. Image: Andrey Atuchin

All 18 samples showed the same structural organization: a layer of disorganized bone "sandwiched" between an inner and outer layer of organized bone. Disorganized bone, or woven bone, indicates rapid growth and is so named because, under a microscope, the layers of bone tissue are laid out in a crisscrossed fashion. In organized bone, which reflects slower growth, layers are parallel to one another.

The researchers then examined femoral cross sections taken from 35 small-bodied mammalian species that are living today -- 28 placentals and seven marsupials, all from Burke Museum collections. Nearly all of the placental femurs showed the same "sandwich" organization as the multituberculates. But all of the marsupial femurs consisted almost entirely of organized bone, with only a sliver of disorganized bone.

The team believes that this stark difference likely reflects their divergent life histories.

"The amount of organized bone in the outermost layer, or cortex, of the femur strongly correlates with the length of the lactation period," said Weaver. "Marsupials have long lactation periods and a lot of organized bone in the outermost cortex. The opposite is true for placentals: a short lactation period and much less organized bone in the outermost cortex."

The outermost layer of organized bone was laid down after birth as the femur's diameter increased. For tiny marsupial newborns, bones must grow much more to reach adult size, so they deposit a greater amount of outer organized bone compared to placentals, according to Weaver.

"This is compelling evidence that multituberculates had a long gestation and a short lactation period similar to placental mammals, but very different from marsupials," said Weaver.

Based on this correlation, the researchers estimate that multituberculates had a lactation period of approximately 30 days -- similar to today's rodents.

These findings cast further doubt on an old view that marsupials have a "more primitive" and placentals a "more advanced" reproductive strategy. The common ancestor of multituberculates, placentals and marsupials may have had a placental-like mode of reproduction that was retained by placentals and multituberculates. Alternatively, multituberculates and placentals could have evolved their long-gestation and short-lactation reproductive methods independently.

Future studies of multituberculate life history may clarify which explanation is true, as well as other outstanding questions of this, and other, ancient branches of our mammalian family tree.

"The real revelation here is that we can cut open fossil bones and examine their microscopic structures to reconstruct the intimate life history details of long-extinct mammals," said Wilson Mantilla. "That's really incredible to me."

Additional co-authors are former UW undergraduate researcher Henry Fulghum, now a graduate student at Indiana University; UW postdoctoral researcher David Grossnickle; UW graduate students William Brightly and Zoe Kulik; and Megan Whitney, a UW doctoral alum and current postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the UW, the Burke Museum, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontological Society and the American Society of Mammalogists.

Lucas N. Weaver, Henry Z. Fulghum, David M. Grossnickle, William H. Brightly, Zoe T. Kulik, Gregory P. Wilson Mantilla, Megan R. Whitney. Multituberculate Mammals Show Evidence of a Life History Strategy Similar to That of Placentals, Not Marsupials. The American Naturalist, 2022; 000 DOI: 10.1086/720410

Weak Handgrip Strength May Signal Serious Health Issues

July 25, 2022
Muscle strength is a powerful predictor of mortality that can quickly and inexpensively be assessed by measuring handgrip strength. In a new study, researchers developed cut-off points that apply to the general population, while also considering the correlation of handgrip strength with gender, body height, and aging to be used in medical practice.

Most people do not give a second thought to doing things like opening pickle jars or carrying groceries, but handgrip strength is an effective screening tool for different health conditions. If someone's handgrip strength is low, it might be an indication of underlying health problems -- and not only in older individuals: handgrip strength has been linked to health conditions already in younger adulthood. A large number of studies have shown that low handgrip strength may be a manifestation of health conditions related to heart and lung problems. Some studies have also found that those with low handgrip strength have a lower life expectancy.

What is missing for clinical practice, are empirically meaningful cut-off points that apply to the general population, while also considering the correlation of handgrip strength with gender and body height, as well as the decline in handgrip strength as a result of normal aging.

In their study just published in the journal BMJ Open, IIASA researcher Sergei Scherbov; Sonja Spitzer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital and the University of Vienna; and Nadia Steiber from the University of Vienna, endeavoured to shed light on at what level of handgrip strength a doctor should consider sending a patient for further examination. The results of the study provide standardized thresholds that directly link handgrip strength to remaining life expectancy, thus enabling practitioners to detect patients with an increased mortality risk early on.

"In general, handgrip strength depends on gender, age, and the height of a person. Our task was to find the threshold related to handgrip strength that would signal a practitioner to do further examinations if a patient's handgrip strength is below this threshold. It is similar to measuring blood pressure. When the level of blood pressure is outside of a particular range, the doctor can either decide to prescribe a particular medicine or to send the patient to a specialist for further examination," explains Scherbov.

Handgrip strength is measured by squeezing a dynamometer with one hand. In the study, the patient is asked to perform two attempts with each hand, the best trial being used for measurement. There is a special protocol for this process as the values may depend on whether the test was performed in a standing or a sitting position, among other considerations.

In contrast to earlier studies, the authors compared individuals' handgrip strength not with a healthy reference population, but with individuals who are comparable in terms of sex, age, and body height. The findings indicate an increase in mortality risk at a threshold that is more sensitive compared to that estimated in earlier studies. In fact, the results show that a handgrip strength that is only slightly below the average of a comparable population (considering a person's sex, age, and body height) is indicative of health conditions leading to earlier death. A stronger handgrip compared to other people of the same age, sex, and body height was not found to reduce the mortality risk.

"Handgrip strength is a cheap and easy to perform test, but it may help with early diagnosis of health problems and other underlying health conditions. Monitoring the handgrip strength of the elderly (and in fact middle-aged people) may provide great benefits for the public health of aging populations. Our findings make it clear that handgrip strength is a very precise and sensitive measure of underlying health conditions. Therefore, we suggest it to be used as a screening tool in medical practice," notes Steiber.

"It is important to point out that we are not suggesting that people should train handgrip strength in particular to decrease mortality risks. Most likely, if someone improves their handgrip strength through exercises, there will be no or very little impact on their overall health. However, low handgrip strength may serve as an indicator of disability because it reflects a low muscle strength, which is associated with a higher risk of death. A healthy lifestyle and exercise are still the best approaches to sustain good health or to improve it in the long term," Spitzer concludes.

Sergei Scherbov, Sonja Spitzer, Nadia Steiber. Thresholds for clinical practice that directly link handgrip strength to remaining years of life: estimates based on longitudinal observational data. BMJ Open, 2022; 12 (7): e058489 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058489

University Of Melbourne Researchers Discover Gene That Promotes Muscle Strength During Exercise

July 25, 2022
Researchers have identified a gene that promotes muscle strength when switched on by physical activity, unlocking the potential for the development of therapeutic treatments to mimic some of the benefits of working out.

Published in Cell Metabolism, the University of Melbourne-led study showed how different types of exercise change the molecules in our muscles, resulting in the discovery of the new C18ORF25 gene that is activated with all types of exercise and responsible for promoting muscle strength. Animals without C18ORF25 have poor exercise performance and weaker muscles.

Project lead Dr Benjamin Parker said by activating the C18ORF25 gene, the research team could see muscles become much stronger, without them becoming necessarily bigger.

"Identifying this gene may impact how we manage healthy aging, diseases of muscle atrophy, sports science and even livestock and meat production. This is because promoting optimal muscle function is one of the best predictors of overall health," Dr Parker said.

"We know exercise can prevent and treat chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers. Now, we hope that by better understanding how different types of exercise elicits these health promoting effects at the molecular level, the field can work towards making new and improved treatment options available."

In the study, a collaboration between Dr Parker and Professors Erik Richter and Bente Kiens of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the team were able to identify the molecular similarities and differences between different types of exercise in human muscle biopsies by analysing proteins and how they change within cells.

"To identify how genes and proteins are activated during and after different exercises, we performed an analysis of human skeletal muscle from a cross-over intervention of endurance, sprint and resistance exercise," Dr Parker said.

The experimental design allowed researchers to compare signalling responses between the exercise modalities in the same individual, relative to their pre-exercise level. This meant they could monitor how an individual responded to different types of exercise directly in their muscles.

Importantly, it also allowed the study team to identify genes and proteins that consistently change across all individuals and all types of exercise, leading to the discovery of the new gene.

This work was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council project grant (APP1122376), a Diabetes Australia grant, a University of Melbourne Driving Research Momentum Grant, and a NHMRC Emerging Leader Investigator Grant (APP2009642) to Dr Benjamin Parker.

Ronnie Blazev, Christian S. Carl, Yaan-Kit Ng, Jeffrey Molendijk, Christian T. Voldstedlund, Yuanyuan Zhao, Di Xiao, Andrew J. Kueh, Paula M. Miotto, Vanessa R. Haynes, Justin P. Hardee, Jin D. Chung, James W. McNamara, Hongwei Qian, Paul Gregorevic, Jonathan S. Oakhill, Marco J. Herold, Thomas E. Jensen, Leszek Lisowski, Gordon S. Lynch, Garron T. Dodd, Matthew J. Watt, Pengyi Yang, Bente Kiens, Erik A. Richter, Benjamin L. Parker. Phosphoproteomics of three exercise modalities identifies canonical signalling and C18ORF25 as an AMPK substrate regulating skeletal muscle function. Cell Metabolism, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2022.07.003

The World's Largest Omnivore Is A Whale Shark

July 25, 2022
Marine scientists have discovered that whale sharks eat plants, making the iconic fish the world's largest omnivore. Whale sharks are filter feeders and have long been observed eating krill at Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef.

But when researchers analysed biopsy samples from whale sharks at the reef, they discovered the animals were actually eating a lot of plant material.

"This causes us to rethink everything we thought we knew about what whale sharks eat," said Australian Institute of Marine Science fish biologist Dr Mark Meekan. "And, in fact, what they're doing out in the open ocean."

The finding makes whale sharks -- which have been reported up to 18m long -- the world's largest omnivore.

"On land, all the biggest animals have always been herbivores," Dr Meekan said.

"In the sea we always thought the animals that have gotten really big, like whales and whale sharks, were feeding one step up the food chain on shrimp-like animals and small fishes.

"Turns out that maybe the system of evolution on land and in the water isn't that different after all."

The research was published in the journal Ecology.

To find out exactly what the whale sharks were eating, the researchers collected samples of possible food sources at the reef, from tiny plankton to large seaweed.

They then compared the amino acids and fatty acids in the plankton and plant material to those in the whale sharks.

Dr Meekan said the whale shark tissue contained compounds found in Sargassum, a type of brown seaweed common at Ningaloo, which breaks off the reef and floats at the surface.

"We think that over evolutionary time, whale sharks have evolved the ability to digest some of this Sargassum that's going into their guts," he said.

"So, the vision we have of whale sharks coming to Ningaloo just to feast on these little krill is only half the story. They're actually out there eating a fair amount of algae too."

CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere organic biogeochemist Dr Andy Revill, who analysed the whale shark tissue using compound-specific stable isotope analysis, said the technology allowed scientists to study what animals were using for energy and growth, not just what they were eating.

"Something like a whale shark, which swims through the water with its mouth open, is going to ingest a lot of different things," he said.

"But you don't know how much of that has been used by the animal and how much just goes straight out the other end.

"Whereas stable isotopes, because they're actually incorporated into the body, are a much better reflection of what the animals are actually utilising to grow."

Biological oceanographer Dr Patti Virtue, from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said she was surprised by the whale shark's biochemical signature.

"It's very strange, because in their tissue they don't have a fatty acid or stable isotope signature of a krill-feeding animal," she said.

The researchers also caught whale shark poo with a net and analysed it.

"The poo did show that they were eating krill," Dr Virtue said. "But they're not metabolising much of it."

This AIMS whale shark research project is supported by Santos and INPEX as Joint Venture participants in the Van Gogh Development.

M. G. Meekan, P. Virtue, L. Marcus, K. D. Clements, P. D. Nichols, A. T. Revill. The world's largest omnivore is a fish. Ecology, 2022; DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3818

Feature Image by Andre Rerekura, copyrigth AIMS

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.