inbox and environment news: Issue 553

September 4 - 10, 2022: Issue 553

Dogs Off-Leash On Beaches Open For Feedback

The REF the council commissioned for dog off-leash areas - at Palm Beach (North) and Mona Vale Beach (South) is now open for comments -- closes September 11.

The webpage states the council will investigate any further requirements it must address before having dogs off-leash on beaches can proceed, including under the Local Government Act 1993, which states an Environmental Impact Assessment is required, as was the case in the Station Beach 'trial' challenged in the Land and Environment Court by residents, and any other requirements under the Crown Land Management Act 2016, the Companion Animals Act 1998 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

To register your support or opposition visit the council's webpage for this
Written submissions required - no survey this time.

Recent reports:

White faced heron landing at north Palm Beach, March 7th, 2022 during storm event. All native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals (except the dingo) are protected in New South Wales by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act).

Masked Lapwing Plover Chicks Update: All Now Dead Because No One Is 'Responsible For Wildlife In Council Areas'

Update August 29, 2022: All 3 of the Masked Lapwing Plover chicks are now dead. Their parents still occupy the same triangle of green at North Avalon - hopefully they will try again for babies before the Season expires.

Their deaths as babies prompt the questions; 
  1. Do we need a change to either the Local Government Act or Environment laws in New South Wales to ensure the letter of the law is not only well-known but policed? (laws are written to respond to what has been identified as a problem in our society, most often in/as human behaviour - but why is the process to address breaches failing?) 
  2. Should Councils be funded to look after the wildlife in their Local Government Areas? 
  3. Or should the burden being taken up by volunteer wildlife rescue and carer organisations and their volunteers continue indefinitely? (physical, emotional, financial) 
  4. If Councils are tasked with looking after wildlife in their LGA's - what form should this take?
  5. Should volunteer wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisations be funded by local, state and federal governments?
  6. Are we witnessing the extinction of species in our local area that could once live safely here, raising their own young? (recent studies suggest we are - read in page linked to below 2 that came out same week this was occurring)
Interestingly our own local council was celebrating the first day of Spring on Thursday September 1st with a webpage and 'News' campaign stating:

'Celebrating Biodiversity Month with surprising facts about our natural environment
September not only marks the beginning of spring, it’s also the beginning of a unique celebration for our natural environment - National Biodiversity Month.

The Northern Beaches is blessed with more than 300 bushland reserves and two national parks right on our doorstep.

We’ve got some almighty statistics about these areas that might just surprise you!
540 native fauna species call our reserves and bushlands home, and 69 of them are listed as threatened.
1,460 plant species can be found right here in our backyard, of which 65 are threatened.
48 different native vegetation communities; 13 of these are threatened ecological communities.
This level of biodiversity makes the Northern Beaches one of the most biodiverse areas left in Sydney. In a bustling world-renowned city this really is unique.

Council and the community are committed to sustaining our bushland and wildlife for future generations to enjoy.'

Excepting when that wildlife is a local resident species giving birth to or raising the next generation in their historical and current habitat remnants and range and a resident contacts council for help to save them and is told 'council is not responsible for wildlife in the area'. 

And more soon.

Leopard Seal Visitor

Selena Griffith forwarded this photo, taken from 40 metres distance, of a Leopard Seal visitor to our area in recent days. 

Unfortunately as soon as we posted these on social media we commenced getting message that dogs were on the beach, a no-dogs area, and people were concerned that either those pets or the seal would end up being attacked, as happened at Long Reef in November 2020 - a Marine Park and NO DOGS area.

Council and trained ORRCA volunteers, who had been monitoring the visitor the day previously, quickly acted and fenced off the area to ensure the safety, and peace, of all.

Although it is nice to share images of these visitors on social media, it's not a good idea to state their location as it can attract too many people to that place.

There is a requirement in NSW to maintain a 40m exclusion zone for seal protection and the protection of the community. 

Please report any sightings of seals hauling out onto our beaches to the ORRCA 24/7 Rescue Hotline on 02 9415 3333. 

VALE Barbara Triggs

Sad news this week on the passing of Barbara Triggs. 

Barbara Triggs lived in the bush in East Gippsland, among the mammals she wrote about, since 1972. 

An authority on the identification of mammalian traces, she is the author of several natural history books. Mammal Tracks and Signs won the Whitley Award for the Best Field Guide in 1984.

Barbara analysed many thousands of hair samples over the years that saved countless areas of forests where Potoroo or Quoll hairs were found (before the advent of the spy camera). Many that Environment East Gippsland (EEG)  found in their hair-tubes were sent to her. 

Her Scats and Tracks books were an absolute must for anyone's bookshelf. A big loss to our environment family, especially our wildlife.

Barbara Triggs contributed a great deal to conservation and ecological work at many levels from researchers to enthusiasts and wildlife carers with her amazing work identifying native species across a multitude of landscapes.

RIP wonderful lady - thank you for all you have given.

Barbara Triggs' studies may be accessed here:

Wombats 2009 edition;

One of Australia’s most engaging marsupials, the wombat is also one of the most disparaged and least understood. Often depicted as slow, muddle-headed and clumsy, it can, in fact, outpace a human or a dog over a short distance. Wombats are quick to learn and superbly adapted to their burrowing way of life.

This book gives a full account of how wombats live and the many hazards they face. Dealing mainly with the bare-nosed wombat, Vombatus ursinus, it also includes information on the southern hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus latifrons, as well as the northern hairy-nosed wombat, Lasiorhinus krefftii, which is one of the world’s most endangered animals. The book also gives practical advice on rearing orphan wombats.

Katandra Bushland Sanctuary Open

Katandra is open to visitors 10am to 4pm every Sunday from July to October (inclusive). Group visits can be organised at alternative times.
NB: NO dogs - this is a wildlife sanctuary.

Ku-Ring-Gai Sculpture Trail For 2022 Eco Festival

Ku-ring-gai’s Sculpture Trail celebrates sustainable art in the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden.

Visit the Wildflower Garden to see an array of recyclable sculptures made by members of the community and professional artists.

The sculpture trail guide and maps will be available digitally once at the venue so remember to bring your smart phone or tablets.

The sculptures will be on display from 3 September to 3 October at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, open daily from 9am - 4pm. We encourage everyone to go visit and check them out!

When: Saturday, 03 September 2022 | 09:00 AM - Monday, 03 October 2022 | 04:00 PM
Location: Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, 420 Mona Vale Road, St Ives

Photos: Pittwater Creator Bea Pierce (Jellybeaps)has her Possum, Kangaroo and Quoll now installed at Ku-ring-gai Wild Flower Garden for the Ku-ring-gai Sculpture Trail. Bea's sculptures are #30, in Lamberts Clearing.

Dust Off Your Picnic Blankets For The First Ever Statewide Picnic For Nature

The NSW Nature Conservation Council have a bold plan. They are bringing people together to celebrate our great outdoors in a statewide Picnic for Nature—and we want you to be a part of it. 
On Sunday, October 16, the Nature Conservation Council are holding their first Picnic for Nature, where communities will come together in our great outdoors to celebrate everything we love about nature.  

If you are like many of us, you probably don’t get into nature as much was you would like to.  Our lives are over-scheduled, with work, school, shopping and dashing about to kid’s sport. Sometimes, it feels like if you don’t schedule time for nature, it just doesn’t happen.  

That’s why the Nature Conservation Council are organising this statewide Picnic for Nature, to give people the excuse they need to get outdoors to reconnect with nature, family, friends and the neighbours they probably should get to know. 

Taking time out to sit in the shade of a tree, share food, and appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings is something we don’t do often enough.  

So why not take advantage of the warmer weather and unroll your picnic blanket to spend some quality time with family, friends and neighbours at your local park, beach or beauty spot. 
Every picnic will be unique, and some groups have even organised activities, games for the kids, and music.  

Already, people have registered 36 picnics around the state, from Albury to the Tweed and Broken Hill to Sydney, including two local picnics

Check out Nature Conservation Council's interactive map of picnics to see if there is an event in your town or suburb. If there’s not, why not organise one? 
Anyone can co-host a picnic, all you need is some food, a public space, and some friends. Picnics can be as big or as small as you like, with activities and games, or just some blankets and sunscreen. The Nature Conservation Council  can provide resources and materials like marketing templates, posters, and stickers  as well as the RSVP page and some marketing.  

Whether you’re hosting or attending, with your help we can help people reconnect with nature and each other. 

RSVP or Register for your local picnic at:

Narrabeen Picnic for Nature: Sun 16 Oct 2022 at 12:00 AM at Surfrider Gardens, 73 Ocean St, Narrabeen, RSVP:
Co-hosted by: the Surfrider Foundation

Manly Picnic for Nature: Sun 16 Oct 2022 at 12:00 AM, Manly, RSVP:
Co-hosted by: Save Northern Beaches Bushland, Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee, Seas of Change
Please note - the exact time and location of this picnic has yet to be confirmed. 

New National Fire Rating System Backed By New Fire Behaviour Models And Fire Danger Calculator

Thursday September 1st, 2022
The Bureau of Meteorology is proud to have played an important role in the development and delivery of the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) being launched today by the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services (AFAC).

This new nationally consistent rating system better describes the overall fire danger risk at a finer geographic scale. It improves the reliability of fire danger forecasts by using the latest scientific understanding about weather, fuel and how fire behaviour behaves in different types of vegetation.

The Bureau developed new fire behaviour models and a new fire danger calculator that now includes eight major fuel types in the models:
  • forest
  • grassland
  • grassy woodland
  • spinifex
  • shrubland
  • mallee-heath
  • buttongrass
  • pine
Bureau of Meteorology spokesperson, Nina Bowbridge, National Manager, Hazard Preparedness and Response, said under the new system, the Bureau will provide a whole new suite of products and tools for fire agencies and the community to inform better decision making, including multi-week and seasonal forecast weather outlook service.

"These changes will drive improvement in our current fire weather services, including our Incident Weather Forecasts and warnings, that inform crucial decision making by emergency service agencies and the wider community during bushfire events," Ms Bowbridge said.

The Bureau has been working closely with its emergency service partners, AFAC, and the Commonwealth Government to develop the AFDRS, including completing a successful trial service in late 2021, completing internal training and developing the products in preparation for the September 2022 launch.

"Communities can keep up to date with fire weather warnings on the Bureau's website and through their relevant state or territory emergency service website. The information will soon also be available on the BOM Weather app, under the forecast description in both text and as a visual marker," Ms Bowbridge said.

Fire danger rating forecasts are found on the Bureau’s website.

More information about the AFDRS is available at AFAC | Australian Fire Danger Rating System.

Effectiveness Of The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme

August 30, 2022: NSW Auditor General, NSW Audit Office
What the report is about
This audit examined whether the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) have effectively designed and implemented the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (‘the Scheme’) to compensate for the loss of biodiversity due to development.

Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, the Scheme enables landholders to establish in-perpetuity Biodiversity Stewardship Agreements on sites to generate credits for the unique biodiversity on that land. These credits can be sold to offset the negative impact of development on biodiversity.

What we found
DPE has not effectively designed core elements of the Scheme. DPE did not establish a clear strategic plan to guide the implementation of the Scheme.
The BCT has various roles in the Scheme but lacked safeguards against potential conflicts, creating risks to credit supply.

The effectiveness of its implementation has also been limited. Key concerns around the Scheme’s transparency, sustainability and integrity are yet to be fully resolved.

A market-based approach to biodiversity offsetting is central to the Scheme's operation but credit supply is lacking and poorly matched to growing demand. 

DPE has not established a clear, resourced plan to manage the shortage in credit supply. 

Data about the market, published by the DPE and the BCT, does not provide an adequate picture of credit supply, demand and price to readily support market participation.

These factors create a risk that biodiversity gains made through the Scheme will not be sufficient to offset losses resulting from development, and that the DPE will not be able to assess the Scheme’s overall effectiveness.

DPE is leading work with the BCT to improve the Scheme, but this is not yet guided by a long-term strategy with clear goals.

What we recommended
The audit made 11 recommendations to DPE and the BCT, focusing on:
  • a long-term strategic plan for the Scheme
  • improvements to the operation and transparency of the market and credit supply
  • frameworks to ensure the financial and ecological sustainability of biodiversity stewardship sites
  • enhanced public reporting and data management
  • resolving issues in conflicting governance and oversight.
Fast facts
  • 96% –  proportion of developer demand for species credits not met by current supply
  • 97% – proportion of species credits that have never been traded on the biodiversity market
  • 60% – proportion of the 226 Biodiversity Stewardship sites under active land management
  • $90m – value of developers’ obligations paid directly into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund
  • 20% – proportion of developer obligations transferred to the BCT that have been acquitted.

Damning Auditor-General’s Report Finds Coalition’s Biodiversity Conservation Architecture Is A House Of Cards States Nature Conservation Council

The NSW Government must bite the bullet, end the developer free-for all and strictly limit the use of biodiversity offset as a last resort only for critical public infrastructure. 

“It is hard to imagine a more damning assessment of such an important scheme than the Auditor General has given the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Offsets Scheme today,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said. 

“It is failure by almost every measure. Essentially, the government’s biodiversity offsets scheme treats nature like a Magic Pudding that developers can keep eating forever if they throw some cash into the government’s tin. 

“It reduces nature to a bunch of financial formulas that can never capture the true value of our unique and rapidly disappearing wildlife and bushland. 

“After this report, offsets must be only used as an absolute last resort. Currently, they are handed out like lollies.” 

The conservation movement from the very start opposed the offsets scheme, which part of a package weakened nature laws government introduced in 2017. 

“Biodiversity offsets underpin the whole system of new nature laws the Coalition introduced in 2017,” Ms Mumford said. 

“The Coalition claimed those new laws would hit the sweet spot — protecting wildlife while allowing development. The truth is, nature has gone backwards since the scheme began.

“The most recent NSW State of the Environment Report found more than 1,020 plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, about 20 more than when the scheme began. 

“Offsetting must be used as a last resort and only when it adheres to best-practice principles.”  

Best practice principles include: 
  1. Adhering to the avoid, minimise, offset hierarchy.   
  2. Requiring no net loss, and preferably a net gain, in biodiversity. 
  3. Ruling out destruction of high-conversation value habitats.   
  4. Requiring strict like-for-like offsetting, with no variation rules.   
  5. Excluding supplementary measures, mine rehabilitation and payments in lieu of offsets.   
  6. Ensuring all offset actions are additional to what is already required by law.  
  • Core elements of the scheme are “not effectively designed”. (p2) 
  • There is no clear strategy for assessing whether the scheme is achieving its intention (p2) to maintain a healthy, productive and resilient environment, so we may never know the full extent of the damage it has allowed. 
  • The market-based approach is not working. There are not enough biodiversity 'credits' to meet the demands of development, even as credit demand is projected to grow with the NSW Government's infrastructure plans. 
  • The practice of developers paying into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund without proper information about whether sufficient credits for their project exist is enabling damaging projects to progress while nature loses out. 
  • The scheme is plagued with problems of integrity, transparency and conflict of interest (p2). The Biodiversity Conservation Trust is the scheme’s supplier, market intermediary and market participant. 
  • There is no plan for long-term funding for the care of Biodiversity Stewardship sites, and with no monitoring in place, we can't know if land management actions are actually achieving the necessary gains to compensate for biodiversity loss (p8). 

So-Called Biodiversity Certificates Scheme Another False Solution To Tackling Environmental Crisis Researcher States

August 26, 2022
The Labor (Federal) Government has today announced the creation of a biodiversity certificates scheme which would see the conversion of Australia’s ecosystems into a new type of tradeable credit that would be traded to ‘compensate’ or ‘offset’ damage to the environment.

“The Government’s announcement of a new ‘biodiversity certificates scheme’ raises concerns of more false solutions to tackle the climate crisis,” said Polly Hemming, senior researcher at the Australia Institute.

“There are straightforward solutions to addressing species loss in Australia like ending native forest logging, regulating land clearing, and paying landholders and communities directly to improve their habitats.

“What is not at all clear, is why anyone would think that creating a so-called ‘biodiversity offset scheme’ where some people can destroy habitat as long as someone else promises to improve habitat is the cheapest or best solution. If Australia can afford to spend $11 billion subsidising fossil fuels, as a nation we can afford to protect our ecosystems and habitats.

“Australia Institute research and independent experts suggests that up to 80 per cent of the carbon credits circulating in Australia are of low integrity. The Government announcement makes no reference to the fact that this scheme and its governance is currently under review and that Professor Ian Chubb is yet to report his findings.

“The decision that this scheme will be overseen by the same regulatory body that is currently being investigated for its failure to regulate Australia’s carbon credits system seems particularly reckless.”

NSW Government To Allow Carbon Credits For Marine Ecosystems

The NSW Government has announced this week it will extend 'carbon credits' into our oceans. On the first day of Spring, September 1st 2022 the State Government announced ''Marine ecosystems and coastal communities will benefit from increased investment and restoration projects as a result of the new NSW Blue Carbon Strategy.''

The Australian Government recently approved the first blue carbon method under the Emissions Reduction Fund that generates Australian Carbon Credit Units when restoring tidal flows to blue carbon ecosystems.

Minister for Environment James Griffin stated the Strategy is perfectly timed given the new era of natural capital and the increasing demand for sustainable investment products.

“The simplest way to understand blue carbon is to liken it to underwater forests – just as trees store carbon, marine and coastal plants and ecosystems do too, except even more efficiently,” Mr Griffin said.

“Marine plants and coastal ecosystems, such as seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh, store carbon up to four times more efficiently than ecosystems on land. But, since European settlement in Australia, we’ve lost huge swathes of these ecosystems.

“We have more than 2,000 kilometres of NSW coastline and surrounding areas that could support the storage of additional blue carbon, which would significantly contribute to our goal of reducing carbon emissions, while restoring and rewilding our marine environment.

“NSW is lucky to have some of the most vibrant marine ecosystems in the world and I want to make sure we are protecting our rich biodiversity for generations to come while also leveraging investment opportunities.” Mr Griffin said.

Marine and coastal ecosystems in NSW currently store about 10 million tonnes of carbon, which is equivalent to annual emissions from 500,000 households. Australia’s coastline stores approximately 5 to 11% of global blue carbon stocks.

The Strategy, the statement reads 'will help unlock investment in blue carbon projects through carbon credits and other mechanisms that will ultimately benefit the state’s economy, environment, and build resilience to climate change.'

It provides an overview of how marine ecosystems are a powerhouse form of natural capital that can capture and store carbon while also improving foreshore protection, water quality, biodiversity and fisheries.

It identifies actions within five priority areas to be delivered over the next five years:
  1. Conserving blue carbon ecosystems and supporting their adaptation.
  2. Delivering blue carbon projects on public, private and First Nations peoples owned and managed land.
  3. Embedding blue carbon in coastal and marine policy planning and management.
  4. Conducting blue carbon research.
  5. Promoting pathways for blue carbon investment.
The NSW Blue Carbon Strategy builds upon existing management of threatened and protected marine species through the $9.1 million Seabirds to Seascapes initiative, the $184 million Marine Estate Management Strategy.

To view the report, visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for access to the NSW Blue Carbon Strategy 2022–2027

7.7 Million Hectares For Seismic Surveying

Multinational companies Schlumberger and TGS are planning one of the largest seismic surveys Australia has ever seen – 7.7 million hectares stretching from northern Tasmania, across western Victoria, and over to South Australia. As part of the testing, seismic blasts of up to 250 decibels, louder than the Hiroshima bomb, will go off every 10 seconds for months at a time.

The area is larger than the size of Tasmania, adjacent to the iconic 12 Apostles, the Great Southern Reef and significant biodiverse ecosystems. 

The Albanese Government have also announced their annual offshore oil and gas acreage release, with a further 46,758 square kilometres of Australian marine wilderness handed to the gas industry off the coasts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria. 

Further, on August 24 2022 the Albanese Government announced permits have been awarded as part of the 2021 Offshore Greenhouse Gas Storage Acreage Release. Two permits have been announced by the government as being awarded. They are located off the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The awardees are:
  • a joint venture between INPEX, Woodside Energy and Total Energies for an area in the Bonaparte Basin
  • Woodside Energy for an area in the Browse Basin.
More assessment permit awards for the 2021 release will be announced soon. 

The Surfrider Foundation Australia states “The scale of this proposed seismic survey is just outrageous. Once again, marine wilderness is being handed to the gas industry for profiteering at the expense of the environment, the climate and the Australian people.”

“Australia is awash in gas production already, and yet we allow it to sail overseas with little or no return to Australians. This ‘gas shortage’ is a narrative of the gas industry, and the government should not be using it as a justification to put more gas into development. At a time we should be stopping all new fossil fuel development, the industry is making a brazen grab for millions of hectares of ocean that doesn’t belong to them. Australia is aiming to hit net zero by 2050. How the hell can this be part of that plan?”

This states:
We call on the elected representatives of Australia to cease any further expansion of fossil fuel exploration in  commonwealth waters adjacent to the Tasmanian, South Australian and Victorian coastline by supporting the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Bill 2022.

It is critical for our local economies and our communities’ health & well-being for the ocean to be safeguarded as the well balanced, fruitful ecosystem that it is. We are particularly concerned with the seismic surveys happening in the Otway Basin, in the North West of Tasmania. 

Last year Conocophillips & 3D oil  conducted seismic surveys just 27km West of King Island
3D Oil now have plans to drill a “frontier exploration well” by 2023
Slumberger & TGS are applying to seismic survey 7.7 million hectares of the continental shelf from South Aus to as far south as Arthur River, Tasmania. 
This is occurring over the Zeehan & Nelson Marine Park 
We call for a cancellation of PEP/T/49P where US company ConocoPhillips has recently conducted seismic testing. In addition, no further exploration or permits granted on the  Eastern Beach Energy lease (T/RL2, T/RL4 & T/RL5). We also call on all new petroleum exploration leases in the Otway Basin (12 Apostles) and Sorell Basin to be canceled. 

Both commercial and recreational fishing has always been a huge part of our coastal culture. We want to be able to keep local seafood on the table for our families, protect local industries and continue recreational activities on the water. Afterall, it is this lifestyle and culture that has helped build our Southern Sea Country into the globally recognised area that it is today. 

New research by the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Science (IMAS) has recently found the economic value of Tasmania’s Fisheries and Aquaculture industries is worth $1.5b to the Australian economy

The current landed value of the Southern Rock Lobster Fisheries is $99m with a capital investment of $1b.

The fisheries on the Great Ocean Road contributed $22 million of added value in the 2016/17 financial year.

In 2018 Tasmanian had a total of 92,000 recreational fishermen, The Australian Institute reported these fishermen spend  $93m on equipment, bait, accommodation, and other services

A scientific study commissioned by the Fisheries Resource and Development Corporation (FRDC) in 2020 found that one month after a seismic survey around Lakes Entrance, catch rates fell 99.5% for whiting and 71% for flatheads.  Commercial scallop fisheries in Bass strait recorded a $70m loss in catches after a seismic survey in 2010. 

IMAS and Curtin University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology concluded seismic surveying was most likely the cause. These studies highlight the fact that  local fishing industries are left to deal with the negative impacts caused by fossil fuel exploration. 

Further studies on the commercially important species are currently being conducted at IMAS. However, all previous and current studies on the impacts of seismic testing have focused on individual physical impact. In short, scientists have not yet assessed the long-term effects of seismic testing, the impacts it will have on future fish stocks and the overall  health of our ecosystem. 

Impacting our fishing industry harms all other parts of our community, from the local business who sell fishing gear to the mechanics which service our fishing vessels. For example, the King Island rock lobster industry brings $22 million to the island annually supporting a diverse range of industries including hospitality, general stores etc. 

An official survey of King Island completed in 2021 confirmed 97% of residents were against fossil fuel exploration. 

In addition to fisheries, our oceans and our coasts are our most valuable tourism asset.  

Tasmania’s west coast is internationally renowned as one of the most wild, untouched, and pristine areas in the world, which the Tasmanian tourism industry has relied on to promote its world class reputation as a natural wonder. For example, Tasmanian Tourism directly  contributed $1.44 billion to Tasmania’s economy, and supported around 

38 000 jobs in Tasmania (15.8% of total Tasmanian employment) in 2019 prior to COVID19. 

A total of 376,000 of these visitors ate Tasmania's famous local seafood, 42,000 participated in fishing and 6,000  came for the sole purpose of fishing. 

The growing industry of tourism in Tasmania is an exciting prospect for communities and job growth, however the exploration for gas within 57km of these much-valued assets such as The Nut in Stanley, is jeopardising this opportunity. The air and water quality on the West  Coast has a worldwide reputation for being some of the cleanest on the planet and the  planned expansion of fossil fuel operations off this coastline does not align with the Tasmanian wilderness tourism experience. 

In Victoria, to be exploring for gas less than 5km from the iconic 12 Apostles is an atrocity.  This coastline is world renowned, and in 2016-17, catered to over 5.1 million visitors who  spent $1.3 billion and generated employment for over 9,200 people. The Victorian tourism  industry, coastal communities and the livelihood of local fishermen will be heavily impacted  by the further industrialisation of the coastline. Local businesses and industries are a critical  part of coastal communities, and an integral part of our local economies. Threatening this  through fossil fuel expansion off our coasts would be another immense blow to our local  communities, who are only just beginning to recover from the impacts which COVID-19 has  burdened us with for the last 2 years. 

Older Homes Left Out In The Cold By New Building Sustainability SEPP

August 29, 2022
The NSW Government’s new Building Sustainability SEPP is a step in the right direction for standards for new homes, but much more needs to be done in relation to existing homes. [1]   

The new SEPP includes updating BASIX standards for new residential buildings, including: 

an increase of the thermal performance standard from an average of 5.5-6 stars to 7 stars Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating 
an increase of between 7-11% in greenhouse gas reduction (this standard varies depending on location and type of residential development proposed) for older homes and renters. 
“Increasing the NatHERS standard to seven stars is a very welcome improvement.” Nature Conservation Council CEO Jacqui Mumford said. 

“This will significantly reduce the energy people have to use to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That will also help to keep home energy bills down. 

“However, the new planning policy does not address the much bigger problem of older, energy hungry homes. Some older homes are energy sinks because they take so much power to make them liveable. 

“The government needs to develop policies to retrofit older homes so everyone in NSW can live in a home that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to keep comfortable.” 

Ms Mumford said the updated BASIX standard in the new SEPP had been part of a broader reform package to make homes and communities more liveable—the Design and Place SEPP—which the Coalition scrapped to please the developer lobby. 

“One of the more important features of the Design and Place SEPP was minimum tree canopy measures for urban areas,” Ms Mumford said. 

“This reform is critical to ensure communities don’t become unbearably hot as temperatures rise and dangerous heat waves become more common, especially in Western Sydney. 

“We urge the government to act on this important issue before the election next March.” 


[1] Sustainable Buildings SEPP, NSW Government, August 29, 2022  

Greater Sydney Water Strategy Announced

August 29, 2022
The NSW Department of Planning states communities and businesses across Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra are well on their way to securing an enduring, sustainable and resilient water supply after the NSW Government launched the Greater Sydney Water Strategy (GSWS) today.

Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson said the GSWS is a new approach to water security planning, that will support economic prosperity and underpin the growth, liveability and quality of life of the city.

“This is an unprecedented 20-year strategy designed to tackle the region’s water challenges – including droughts and a growing population – using the best possible mix of innovative water solutions,” Mr Anderson said.

“The GSWS is about being resilient, especially in the face of a more variable climate. Sydney’s population is set to grow to 7.1 million by 2041, which will put even more pressure on our water resources.

“The strategy makes it clear that we need to invest in additional water supply in the next 5 to10 years as well as improving water efficiency and conservation, to make better use of all our water sources and assets.

It will also identify alternative pathways to increase water supply options through reuse programs and additional water from desalination, the Dept. of Planning states.

“Water drives our economy and growth, maintains our parks and green spaces, sustains our health and wellbeing and supports a healthy environment. That’s why we’re planning and delivering new and resilient systems today to ensure Sydney continues to be green, liveable and prosperous.”

According to the NSW Department of Planning the GSWS will deliver:
  • Improved water efficiency, leakage management and reuse programs to save Greater Sydney up to 49 billion litres of water every year by 2040;
  • New flexible operating rules for the Sydney Desalination Plant that will enhance our resilience by allowing up to 20 extra billion litres of water per year to be produced – and more when needed;
  • Options to expand the desalination plant, which could add another 90 billion litres per year, or a new desalination;
  • Investment in treated re-use programs for watering trees, sports fields, cooling and greening the city, and industrial use; and
  • Smarter use of stormwater with integration into land use planning. This is already underway with the stormwater vision for the new Aerotropolis precinct. In a first for the State, stormwater will be managed across the entire landscape, diverted into natural water channels and wetlands, and then treated as recycled water to green and cool Sydney’s West.
“The GSWS lays the groundwork for these, and many other exciting programs, initiatives and technologies, to start delivering big water wins for our city,” Mr Anderson said.

The strategy assumes Warragamba Dam’s current storage is maintained.

“While Chris Minns and NSW Labor want to lower the supply level in Warragamba for flood mitigation, the Greater Sydney Water Strategy confirms this risks putting Sydney into severe water restrictions and even permanent drought,” Mr Anderson stated

“It would mean we have to start work today on at least two more desalination plants to meet the supply shortfall costing taxpayers $10 billion and adding up to $200 a year to their water bills.”

To read the Strategy and the Implementation Plan, visit the Greater Sydney Water Strategy.

Rally To Optimize Economic Benefits For Lithgow From Gardens Of Stone Ecotourism Without Trashing The Region’s Scenic Values

The Gardens of Stone Alliance (GOSA) is calling on the NSW Government to optimise economic benefits for Lithgow and minimize scenic and ecological impacts by amending ecotourism development plans for the Lost City, a world-class rock formation 10 minutes from Lithgow CBD. 

NSW National Parks Association CEO Gary Dunnett said: “Lithgow would benefit more from a ‘gateway policy’, where accommodation, cafes and accredited eco-related facilities are situated in an entry to the Gardens of Stone region, at State Mine Gully.  

“Without such a policy, Lithgow will receive a fraction of tourism boost it should from the new reserve as visitors will come from the east, not from Lithgow. 

“We are particularly concerned at the way this proposal has been conducted. No other site has been considered and only preliminary conceptual documents have been produced before going into a state government tender process.  

“This made the proposal ‘commercial-in-confidence’ effectively excluding community consultation and necessary scrutiny of this tax-payer subsidized proposal in a publicly owned conservation reserve. 

“We have little confidence the necessary environmental standards and assessments will be met or maintained.”  

Blue Mountain Conservation Society President Madi Maclean said: “No other National Park or Conservation Reserve in Australia has a zip-line or adventure theme park.  

“The current proposal would degrade the very things that will attract tourists to the region—it’s scenic and environmental values. It would be like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  

“The Gardens of Stone Alliance does not oppose adventure tourism development—we have actually promoted it, but it must be done in the right place and in the right way. 

“A well-operated zip-line could be suitably located in an area outside of the conservation reserve at State Mine Gully.”  

GOSA spokesperson Keith Muir said: “Sydney day-trippers would bypass Lithgow town centre entirely under the government’s current Lost City adventure park proposal, which is simply crazy.  

“One of the key arguments for the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area was its ability to attract visitors and pump tourist dollars into the local economy. 

“But under the current plan, tourists would drive straight to the Lost City, bypassing Lithgow completely.” 

Keeping Kermit: New Clues To Protecting Frogs From Deadly Bd Fungus

As the globe continues to battle COVID-19, another pandemic -- the deadly fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) -- is ravaging the world's frog species, contributing to the instability of Earth's delicate ecosystem.

Now, a world-first study from the University of South Australia shows that while Bd can significantly reduce in captive frogs, captivity can have negative consequences for the frogs' protective skin microbiota, providing new insight into diversity management.

Examining the culture-dependent skin microbiota of the Common Eastern froglet, the study analysed the how captivity and water salinity affects the Bd infection.

It found that the infection significantly reduced in this population of 24 captive frogs, and while water salinity was not the cause of the decline, a natural skin shedding process could help frogs use reduce Bd loads.

Globally, the Bd infection has caused a decline in 501 amphibian species with 90 of these species now presumed extinct, and another 124 declined by over 90 per cent. The infection is currently in 56 countries across six continents.

The Bd infection has been linked to frog decline since the late 1990s, with Bd considered the cause of an unusual spate of frog deaths in Australia, just one year ago.

UniSA researcher and Masters candidate, Darislav Besedin, says finding ways to protect frogs from the lethal Bd infection is a critical step in conserving global biodiversity.

"The world is currently undergoing a sixth mass extinction, where a high percentage of distinct species -- particularly amphibians -- are dying out," Besedin says.

"Yet what most people don't immediately consider is that every species is interconnected. When one becomes extinct, a range of other species is also affected, creating a domino effect that can have devastating impacts on the environment.

"The drastic decline of amphibians in the last several decades from the lethal Bd infection is a clear sign that there is an ecological imbalance, so monitoring effected species is vital.

"This study provides important clues for managing endangered frog species, most importantly that the Bd infection can be eradicated among captive populations. At this point, we assume that this has to do with the frogs shedding their skin, but it could equally be due to many other factors.

"Our results also show that captivity caused a significant reduction in skin bacteria diversity and richness, likely through the loss of a microbial reservoir, high stress, reduced immunity, and sloughing. So future research must be mindful of this effect.

"Frogs released into the wild after captivity programs will likely have reduced resilience to pathogens. More research is needed to promote a healthy microbiome, possibly even with the help of probiotics."

Note: The Common Eastern froglet is found in Tasmania and eastern Australia from central Queensland down through Victoria and along the coast of SA.
Darislav Besedin, Brandon J. Turner, Permal Deo, Miguel De Barros Lopes, Craig R. Williams. Effect of captivity and water salinity on culture-dependent frog skin microbiota and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) infection. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 2022; 1 DOI: 10.1080/03721426.2022.2086358

photo: "Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera)" by David Cook Wildlife Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Echidna 'Love Train' Season Commences

This echidna, photographed at Mona Vale a few years back by Alex Tyrell, is after foods; ants - however, local wildlife carers and rescuers are reminding us that now is the time of year when these other little residents go in search of love and making little echidnas. Please slow down and be extra cautious on our roads around these weeks as we head into Spring - there's already that Spring Thing happening out there.

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

‘Stealth privatisation’ in iconic national parks threatens public access to nature’s health boost

Freycinet National Park, Tasmania. Getty
Ralf BuckleyGriffith University and Alienor ChauvenetGriffith University

Australia’s national parks in several states are under siege from privatisation by stealth. Developers are using the lure of ecotourism to build posh private lodges with exclusive access deep inside many iconic parks.

The problem is, not everyone can afford private lodges. There’s a real danger in letting developers take over precious parts of nature. We know nature is good for our mental health – and the wilder the better. One in five Australians report at least one episode of mental illness in the previous year.

Our new research shows protected areas in Australia boost the mental health of visitors, seen in productivity gains of up to 11% for people who visit at least once a month. Nationwide, that means our national parks give us a productivity gain of 1.8% and cut healthcare costs by 0.6%. We found the therapeutic effects of nature for mentally unhealthy park visitors are 2.5 times greater than for mentally healthy visitors.

Access to nature in national parks is one of the few free mental health boosts available to the less well-off as well as the wealthy. If creeping privatisation takes root in our parks – replacing campsites with expensive accommodation – those who most need the boost from nature will find it harder to get.

noosa river mouth
Public opinion is in favour of national parks remaining wild, as in this picture of the Noosa River from the north shore. Timothée Duran/UnsplashCC BY

The Public Doesn’t Want Private Development In Parks

In national parks, the public wants signs, tracks, toilets, and tent sites, run by parks agencies and available to everyone. The public almost always opposes permanent accommodation in parks, whoever owns it, based on the belief private lodges and camps should be on private land.

But state governments in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia have enabled this regardless. Think of the pristine Ben Boyd National Park near Eden in NSW, slated for eco-tourism cabins at the expense of campers. Or of the Cooloola Recreational Area in Queensland’s Great Sandy National Park near Noosa, where luxury cabins are planned.

The examples go on: ecotourism cabins in Main Range National Park in Queensland, Tasmania’s private Three Capes walk in Tasman national park and a resort in Freycinet National Park, as well as Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

While visitors to ecotourism developments report improved wellbeing and mental health, the issue is about who gets access. Private developments exclude the wider public, both physically and financially.

Some 70% of Australians visit a national park at least once a year. These visits reduces our healthcare costs by A$12.3 billion a year, and increases economic productivity by A$35 billion a year.

Worldwide, we have estimated the money saved through better mental health deriving from visits to protected areas to be around A$8.5 trillion per year.

Privatisation of public areas like campgrounds could make it harder for many to camp in national parks. Jonathan Forage/UnsplashCC BY

Socialise The Costs?

Private lodges impose costs on cash-strapped parks agencies, due to their fixed footprints, permanent occupation and need for new access roads and paths. Lodges can also increase management costs for park staff through weed control, pathogens, feral animals, noise, bushfires and water pollution.

When some in-park enterprises collapse, they can leave large clean-up costs for the taxpayer, as we’ve seen at Queensland’s Hinchinbrook Island.

Parks agencies sometimes have to buy back rights given away free, such as after the collapse of the Seal Rocks centre on Victoria’s Phillip Island.

Private development also comes with increased legal and financial risks for the state, such as after the Thredbo landslide in 1997.

All these costs cut into funds allocated for conservation.

If we let the tourism industry take greater control over park access for private profit, we risk turning famous natural places into exclusive havens for people with money.

This is not to say tourist ventures have no place. Commercial nature tourism businesses can benefit, and contribute, by guiding inexperienced visitors to visit national parks. But the parks themselves, and all their facilities, should remain publicly owned and accessible to all.

National parks are a major tourism drawcard. Commercial enterprises benefit from visitor spending along access routes, in gateway settlements outside park boundaries, and by operating mobile guided tours inside parks under similar conditions to independent visitors. Private lodges inside parks compete with these existing businesses.

We Don’t Have To Give Private Interests Everything They Ask For

While some other countries do allow private lodges in national parks, the models are very different from those in Australia.

In Botswana, for example, private leases in protected areas are short, facilities are fully removable, and private tour operators pay 80% of the parks agency budget.

For comparison, proposals for a private island heli lodge in Tasmania’s Lake Malbena offered only A$4,000 a year.

In the US, the National Parks Service subcontracts visitor services to private concessionaires, but owns the facilities, requires bonds equal to 100% of capital value, and sets all conditions and prices.

In India, luxury lodges must generally be located outside park gates, while private hotels inside parks in China have been removed by the parks agency.

The quiet privatisation of access to national parks risks restricting nature’s mental and physical health benefits to the well-heeled. We need to protect public access to wild places meant for the public. The Conversation

Ralf Buckley, International Chair in Ecotourism Research, Griffith University and Alienor Chauvenet, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University

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

Thousands of photos captured by everyday Australians reveal the secrets of our marine life as oceans warm

Redmap/Jacob Bradbury
Gretta PeclUniversity of TasmaniaBarrett WolfeUniversity of TasmaniaCurtis ChampionSouthern Cross UniversityJan StrugnellJames Cook University, and Sue-Ann WatsonJames Cook University

As the planet heats up, many marine plants and animals are moving locations to keep pace with their preferred temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, this means species are setting up home further south.

This shift alters what we see when we go snorkelling, and when and where we catch our seafood. Crucially, it also changes sensitive marine ecosystems.

But it’s not always easy for scientists to know exactly what’s happening below the ocean’s surface. To help tackle this, we examined tens of thousands of photographs taken by Australian fishers and divers submitted to citizen science programs over the last decade.

They revealed climate change is already disrupting the structure and function of our marine ecosystems – sometimes in ways previously unknown to marine scientists.

man holds large silver fish
The authors examined tens of thousands of photographs taken by Australian fishers and divers, such as this image of a bonefish found off Western Australia. Redmap

Species On The Move

Warming over the Pacific Ocean has strengthened the East Australian Current over the past several decades, as the below-right animation shows. This has caused waters off Southeast Australia to warm at almost four times the global average.

Animated map of sea surface temperatures in southeast Australia from 2004 to 2022
Animated map of sea surface temperatures in southeast Australia from 2004 to 2022. Data sourced from NASA. Barrett Wolfe

There is already irrefutable evidence climate change is causing marine species to move. Understanding this phenomenon is crucial for conservation, fisheries management and human health.

For example, if fish susceptible to carrying toxins start turning up where you go fishing, you’d want to know. And if an endangered species moves somewhere new, we need to know so we can protect it.

But the sheer scale of the Australian coastline means scientists can’t monitor changes in all areas. That’s where the public can help.

Fishers, snorkelers and divers often routinely visit the same place over time. Many develop strong knowledge of species found in a given area.

When a new or unusual species appears in their patch, these members of the public can excel at detecting it. So our project set out to tap into this invaluable community knowledge.

large fish and smaller fish on blue marine background
This sighting of a sea sweep – recorded in May this year off Kangaroo Island by a member of the public – may indicate the species is extending its range. Redmap/Daniel Easton

The Value Of Citizen Science

The Redmap citizen science project began in Tasmania in 2009 and went national in 2012. It invites the public to share sightings of marine species uncommon in their area.

Redmap stands for Range Extension Database and Mapping project. Redmap members use their local knowledge to help monitor Australia’s vast coastline. When something unusual for a given location is spotted, fishers and divers can upload a photo with location and size information.

The photos are then verified by a network of almost 100 marine scientists around Australia. Single observations cannot tell us much. But over time, the data can be used to map which species may be extending their range further south.

The project is supported by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, together with other Australian universities and a range of Commonwealth and state-government bodies.

Screenshot of the Redmap website highlighting a recent coral sighting. Redmap

We also examined data from two other national marine citizen science programs: Reef Life Survey and iNaturalist Australasian Fishes Project. The resulting dataset encompassed ten years of photographed species observations made by almost 500 fishers, divers, snorkelers, spearfishers and beachcombers.

The citizen scientists recorded 77 species further south than where they lived a decade ago. Many were observed at their new location over multiple years and even in cooler months.

For example, spearfisher Derrick Cruz got a surprise in 2015 when he saw a coral trout swimming through a temperate kelp forest in his local waters off Sydney, much further south than he’d seen before. He submitted the below photo to Redmap, which was then verified by a scientist.

Man snorkeling in the ocean, holding up a large orange fish
Spearfisher Derrick Cruz, pictured with a coral trout off Sydney. Redmap

Citizen scientists using Redmap were also the first to spot the gloomy octopus off Tasmania in 2012. Subsequent genetic studies confirmed the species’ rapid extension into Tasmanian waters.

Similarly, solo eastern rock lobsters have been turning up in Tasmania for some time. But Redmap sightings recorded dozens of individuals living together in a “den”, which had not been observed previously.

Other species recorded by citizen scientists moving south include the spine-cheek clownfish, Moorish idol and tiger sharks.

Supporting Healthy Oceans

Using the citizen science data, we produced a report outlining the assessment methods underpinning our study. We’ve also produced detailed state-based report cards for Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales, where coastal waters are warming much faster than the global average.

We also generated a map of the species shifts this revealed, and a downloadable poster summarising the findings. This allows the public – including those who contributed data – to see at a glance how climate change is affecting our oceans.

A map of Australia with southerly lines around the coastline depicting how species distributions have shifted over the last decade
Left, a downloadable poster summarising the species shifts in distribution. Right, the state-based report cards.

Citizen science has benefits beyond helping us understand changes in natural systems. Projects such as Redmap open up a community conversation about the impacts of climate change in Australia’s marine environment - using the public’s own knowledge and photos.

Our research suggests this method engages the community and helps get people involved in documenting and understanding the problems facing our oceans and coasts.

A better understanding – by both scientists and the public – will help ensure healthy ecosystems, strong conservation and thriving fisheries in future. The Conversation

Gretta Pecl, Professor, ARC Future Fellow & Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of TasmaniaBarrett Wolfe, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of TasmaniaCurtis Champion, Research Scientist, Southern Cross UniversityJan Strugnell, Professor Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, and Sue-Ann Watson, Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University

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

Sacred Aboriginal sites are yet again at risk in the Pilbara. But tourism can help protect Australia’s rich cultural heritage

Traditional Owner and co-author Clinton Walker. City of Karratha
Nicole CurtinCharles Darwin UniversityClinton WalkerIndigenous Knowledge, and Tracy WoodroffeCharles Darwin University

An application from Traditional Owners to block the construction of a fertiliser plant near ancient rock art in the Pilbara was denied by the federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek this week. This decision is deeply concerning, and points to a much larger problem with Indigenous heritage management.

Plibersek says she went with the views of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation in making her decision, calling it the “most representative organisation on cultural knowledge” in the region. Yet, she also acknowledged that these views don’t represent all Traditional Owner perspectives in the area.

Save Our Songlines, a separate organisation of Murujuga Traditional Owners, oppose the fertiliser plant, which they say poses a threat to sacred rock art sites. They say the minister’s decision is “based on faulty reasoning and false conclusions”.

In 2020, the world reacted in horror when Rio Tinto lawfully destroyed Juukan Gorge – sacred Aboriginal rock shelters in the Pilbara some 46,000 years old. Broader community understanding of the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges for looking after Country can help us avoid repeating this tragedy. Tourism and community education is an important way to do that.

‘Enough Is Enough’

The A$4.5 billion Perdaman fertiliser plant will be constructed in the World Heritage nominated Murujuga National Park in Western Australia. It is home to the world’s largest rock art gallery, with more than 1 million images scattered across the entire Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago.

As many as 20 sacred sites may be impacted by the plant, according to Save Our Songlines.

In an interview with ABC Radio National, Plibersek said the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation have agreed that some of these rock carvings can be moved safely, and others can be protected on site even if the plant goes ahead.

However, the situation isn’t so clear cut. For example, the ABC revealed on Thursday that the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation refused permission to move the rock art sites multiple times, preferring they remain undisturbed. Elders finally agreed after receiving advice that this wasn’t possible.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen issues regarding consultation processes with Traditional Owners, such as during the notorious battle for the Kimberley against a major gas plant in 2012.

Traditional Owner and co-author Clinton Walker has been sharing his intimate knowledge of the Pilbara with visitors through his tourism venture Ngurrangga Tours for the past 11 years. He has the cultural authority and capacity to speak for his Country.

Clinton was a signatory on the open letter from Traditional Owners and Custodians of Murujuga concerning threats to cultural heritage in the area. He describes the potential impact of the fertiliser plant:

This hill is a very very sacred site to my people. If they build their plant here we’re not gonna have the same access we do now to go visit our rock art and teach our kids and family their culture.

This impact is going to damage our culture and it will damage us as the Traditional Owners because we’re connected to these sites in a spiritual way. I want people to know how important these sites are. We need to protect them. Enough is enough.

The Need For Consent

The federal inquiry into the Juukan Gorge disaster highlighted the need for free, prior and informed consent from any affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group.

The inquiry also called for the removal of so-called “gag clauses” from land-use agreements, which prevent Aboriginal people from speaking out against developers.

Save Our Songlines Traditional Owners say principles from the inquiry aren’t being upheld, and are concerned gag clauses are silencing members of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.

We find it deeply problematic that Plibersek did not acknowledge these concerns around gag clauses in announcing her approval of the fertiliser plant. It is the role of the government to keep industry accountable for their obligations to abide by Indigenous heritage laws and to ensure proper consultation processes are undertaken.

This decision is also not in line with the federal government’s vocal commitment to the environment and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs prior to winning the election.

In a submission to the United Nations about how to “decolonise our legal system”, Nyikina Warrwa Indigenous leader and respected researcher Professor Anne Poelina said:

If the Lawful Laws which are awful, are enabled as lawful, what chance do Indigenous people and our lands, water, lifeways, and livelihoods stand against destruction?

Understanding Indigenous Connection To Country

Non-Indigenous people need to better understand the importance of Country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Classrooms are a good place to start.

Deficits in the Australian education system have led to poor knowledge and frequent and pervasive misunderstandings of Aboriginal people, places and cultures. A psychological hangover from White Australia’s assimilation policies persists.

When school education doesn’t provide accurate and truthful accounts of Australian histories, harmful stereotypes are left unchallenged.

Clinton Walker describes a common response from visitors on his tours showcasing the culture, Country and history of the Pilbara:

People say ‘how the hell don’t we know that? Why have we never learnt this stuff?’

Improvements in education have been slow. For example, the Australian Institute for Teacher and School Leadership only released their report “Building a culturally responsive Australian teaching workforce” in June this year.

Resources to support teachers are said to be scheduled for release in the coming months.

Learn About Country Through Tourism

Tourism is one context where the visibility and recognition of Indigenous people as knowledge-holders can be promoted and celebrated.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism operators are delivering truthful accounts of Australian history and telling their stories of their connection to Country and culture. This work is an emotional labour as they challenge entrenched colonial narratives.

Indigenous tourism operators are agents of reconciliation. Operators speak about wanting to educate visitors to build awareness of social and environmental issues facing their communities. The potential destruction of cultural sites at Murujuga is one such issue.

Ongoing research from lead-author Nicole Curtin involves conversations with Aboriginal tourism operators and their visitors. It finds that deep listening is required for visitors to interrogate their own biases and privileges during their tourism experience. Visitors must be willing to “go and sit and learn” about Indigenous sovereignty and knowledges in their own lives.

Indeed, an enhanced sense of connection to our local communities may help to drive people to speak out about the destruction of sites of environmental and cultural significance.

Raising community awareness to fuel social momentum is one way of exerting pressure on decision makers to protect Australia’s rich cultural heritage and environment.

We acknowledge the Bininj, Larrakia, Noongar, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi and Yawuru peoples as the Traditional Owners of Country where this article, and our research, was conducted and written. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.The Conversation

Nicole Curtin, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin UniversityClinton Walker, Tourism operator, Indigenous Knowledge, and Tracy Woodroffe, Lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges, Charles Darwin University

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

Good news – there’s a clean energy gold rush under way. We’ll need it to tackle energy price turbulence and coal’s exodus

Lucas Pezeta/PexelsCC BY-SA
Bjorn SturmbergAustralian National University

This week, the Australian Energy Market Operator warned gaps in electricity supply are likely within three years.

The reason? Coal plants are quitting the market earlier than expected, as well as becoming less reliable. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove coal, gas, petrol and diesel prices to painful highs. Domestic energy bills are soaring too, due in large part to ballooning gas prices. At one stage, outages and fuel shortages at coal and gas plants, coupled with low solar and wind output, very nearly cut power to a third of all east coast customers.

But the good news is there’s a clean energy gold rush under way, now we have a legislated emissions target and strong engagement between state and federal energy ministers. Investors are moving with increased confidence, accelerating their investments in clean energy generation and storage.

Even so, there’s a big task ahead to reach the goal of 82% renewables by 2030. We’ll need rapid deployment – not only to meet grid demand, but also new demand from the move to “electrify everything” in our homes and on our roads.

So what changes can you expect to see?

Solar Panels And Wind Farms Will Pop Up In Many More Places

The first thing you’re likely to notice is the rapid construction of new clean energy projects.

Over the past year, many of our coal power stations have become less reliable due to old age, heat stress and lack of fuel. There’s going to be a rush to the exit for coal. What’s the point of operators spending money propping up power stations at the end of their service life?

As a result, five coal plants are now expected to shut by the end of the decade – significantly more than anticipated.

What will replace them? Solar and wind farms, as these are the cheapest forms of new generation, supported by energy storage in batteries and pumped hydro.

The market operator conservatively expects 7.3 gigawatts of new generation to be built by the end of 2026-27, with half this again (3.4GW) “anticipated” to be built, meaning AEMO has a good degree of confidence these renewables will be built.

Even so, this is only a tiny fraction of the estimated 45GW of renewable opportunities in Australia readily available to investors and clean energy developers. We’ll need to build all 45GW – and then at least 5GW more – to hit our renewable target of 82%.

Unlike thermal power stations, solar and wind farms are made of simple building blocks that are quicker to scale in manufacturing and deployment.

In particular, you can expect to see solar and wind farms popping up in renewable energy zones like New England and the central west of New South Wales. These zones are designed to share the costs of new grid construction amongst a concentration of clean energy generation in areas with good sun and wind resources.

Batteries To Store And Transmission Lines To Move Electricity

Further major infrastructure investments will be made into energy storage and transmission lines.

The increasing value to the grid of storage is driving major investments like the plans for A$1 billion of new grid-scale batteries recently announced by US investment giant Blackrock, as well as AGL’s A$763 million plan to build batteries next to the decommissioned Liddell coal power plant.

Much of this investment is occurring in coal country, like Victoria’s Gippsland and the Hunter Valley in NSW. Here, companies are vying to place grid-scale batteries at old coal stations. Why? To take advantage of the existing strong connections to the grid.

While our existing transmission infrastructure will host many new renewable power stations and batteries, new transmission lines will need to be built. Especially between states, like EnergyConnect between NSW and South Australia, as well as new grid extensions to connect renewable energy zones to major cities.

A Focus On Flexible Use Of Power

In addition to the infrastructure placed in the grid, there will be a new focus on unlocking the value of flexibility in energy demand to better match the variability of when solar and wind plants generate electricity.

Storage is one source of flexibility. Timing our own electricity use is another.

Flexible energy use is far less resource intensive than new infrastructure and offers the greatest benefit to system reliability. But it relies on human behaviour and our willingness to change established habits.

Expect to see strong price incentives for you to use electricity when it’s abundant. The sunniest hours are already the cheapest time to use power in most of Australia - and this will only get cheaper.

Not only that, but you will likely see grid incentives at times of peak demand. Picture notifications offering you a financial incentive to turn off energy-hungry appliances such as electric vehicle chargers, home batteries and heaters use at particular times - and for these functions to be offered through automation.

This focus on the demand-side of electricity use is already well understood by energy-hungry industries. Last year, for the first time, this demand response was enabled for home users as well.

What Can You To Do Prepare?

The long-overdue energy transformation will affect everyone, in how we use energy at home as well as the infrastructure in our communities.

This transition depends on us all for support and direction. Projects will need social licence – support by local communities – political backing, and, in some cases, personal investment in technology and services.

Investments of time will be particularly important if we want to save billions of dollars and millions of tonnes of critical materials through making demand-side flexibility a reality.

So be ready to see change, and to take part in it. While change can be daunting, the energy transition is really about embracing flexible new paths to the same goal, as my children’s book on the energy transition shows. And the benefits are huge: abundant, cheap power, generated locally and in flourishing regions.The Conversation

Bjorn Sturmberg, Research Leader, Battery Storage & Grid Integration Program, Australian National University

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

Seahorse fathers give birth in a unique way, new research shows

Charlotte Bleijenberg / Shutterstock
Jessica Suzanne DudleyMacquarie University and Camilla WhittingtonUniversity of Sydney

In seahorses and pipefish, it is the male that gets pregnant and gives birth. Seahorse fathers incubate their developing embryos in a pouch located on their tail.

The pouch is the equivalent of the uterus of female mammals. It contains a placenta, supporting the growth and development of baby seahorses.

Seahorse dads provide nutrients and oxygen to their babies during pregnancy, using some of the same genetic instructions as mammalian pregnancy.

However, when it comes to giving birth, our research shows male seahorses seem to rely on elaborate behaviours and their unique body structure to facilitate labour.

How Animals Give Birth

Labour is a complex biological process that in female pregnant animals is controlled by hormones including oxytocin. In mammals and reptiles, oxytocin induces contractions in the smooth muscles of the uterus.

There are three main types of muscle: smooth muscle, skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle.

Smooth muscle is found in the walls of most internal organs and blood vessels. This muscle type is not under conscious control. For example, your intestines are lined with smooth muscle, which rhythmically contracts to move food through your gut without you having to consciously control it.

A male seahorse with his pouch filled with water in a mating display. Kymberlie R McGuireCC BY

Skeletal muscle is found throughout your body and attaches to bones via tendons, allowing body movement. This type of muscle is under conscious control. For example, your bicep muscles when contracted allow you to consciously bend your arm.

Cardiac muscle is specific to the heart and is also under involuntary control.

In female mammals the uterine wall contains abundant smooth muscle. Oxytocin stimulates this smooth muscle to contract, helping bring about labour.

These uterine contractions are spontaneous and involuntary. We can measure these uterine contractions in response to oxytocin, and the results are consistent in both mammals and reptiles.

How Do Male Seahorses Give Birth?

Our team of researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Newcastle set out to determine how labour works in male seahorses.

Our genetic data suggested seahorse labour might involve a similar process to labour in female mammals. A study in 1970 also showed that when non-pregnant male seahorses were exposed to the fish version of oxytocin (called isotocin), they expressed labour-like behaviours.

Male seahorses give birth, but they don’t do it the way female animals do. Shutterstock

Therefore, we predicted seahorse males would use oxytocin-family hormones to control the process of giving birth via contracting smooth muscles inside the brood pouch.

What We Found

First, we exposed pieces of seahorse pouch to isotocin. While isotocin caused our control tissues (intestine) to contract, surprisingly this hormone produced no contractions in the brood pouch.

The result led us to wonder about the anatomy of the pouch. When we examined the pouch under a microscope, we found it contains only scattered small bundles of smooth muscle, far less than the uterus of female mammals. This explained why the pouch did not contract in our experiments.

In the human uterus (left), the entire outer layer is comprised of smooth muscle. The seahorse pouch (right) only has small smooth muscle bundles scattered throughout the outer layers of the pouch. Jessica Suzanne Dudley / VWRAuthor provided

Using 3D imaging techniques combined with microscopy, we then compared the body structure of male and female pot-bellied seahorses.

In males, we found three bones positioned near the pouch opening, associated with large skeletal muscles. These types of bones and muscles control the anal fin in other fish species. In seahorses, the anal fin is miniscule and has little or no function in swimming.

So, the large muscles associated with the tiny seahorse fin are surprising. The anal fin muscles and bones are much larger in male seahorses than in female seahorses, and their orientation suggests they could control the opening of the pouch.

The skeleton of the male seahorse appears to be adapted for giving birth. Jessica Suzanne DudleyAuthor provided

Seahorse Courtship Behaviour Provides A Clue

Seahorse courtship is an elaborate process. Males open and fill their pouch with water by bending forward and contracting their bodies to force water into the pouch, before “dancing” with the female.

Similarly, during labour, male seahorses bend their body towards the tail, pressing and then relaxing. This “pressing” behaviour is accompanied by brief gaping of the pouch opening, with a series of whole-body jerks. This movement combined with pouch opening allows seawater to flush through the pouch.

Jerking and pressing continues, the pouch opening gets gradually bigger, and groups of seahorse babies are ejected with each movement. Many hundreds of babies are ejected in a short time.

A seahorse father undergoing labour.

Our findings suggest the opening of the pouch for courtship and birth is facilitated by contractions of the large skeletal muscles located near the pouch opening. We propose that these muscles control the opening of the seahorse pouch, allowing seahorse fathers to consciously control the expulsion of their young at the end of pregnancy.

Future biomechanical and electrophysiological studies are needed to examine the force required to contract these muscles and test whether they do control the opening of the pouch.

Different Ways To Solve A Problem

A male seahorse with his pouch tightly closed. Anthony PearsonCC BY

Our unexpected results suggest male seahorses use different mechanisms to give birth compared to female pregnant animals.

We speculate that oxytocin-family hormones, instead of primarily producing smooth muscle contractions, trigger the cascade of seahorse behaviours that lead to birth.

Despite the similarities that male seahorses share with female mammals and reptiles during pregnancy, it seems seahorse fathers have a unique way of giving birth to their young. The Conversation

Jessica Suzanne Dudley, Postdoctoral Fellow in Evolutionary Biology, Macquarie University and Camilla Whittington, Senior Lecturer, Evolutionary Biology, University of Sydney

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

Marine Protected Areas In Antarctica Should Include Young Emperor Penguins

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and European research institutions are calling for better protections for juvenile emperor penguins, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers listing the species under the Endangered Species Act and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) considers expanding the network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean.

A group of Juvenile emperor penguins at Atka Bay on the sea ice edge ready for their first swim. In four years, they will return to breed, spending much of their time in unprotected areas of the Southern Ocean. Image credit: Daniel P. Zitterbart/ ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

In one of the few long-term studies of juvenile emperor penguins-and the only study focused on a colony on the Weddell Sea-research published August 31st 2022 in Royal Society Open Science found that the young birds spend about 90 percent of their time outside of current and proposed MPAs. The study, which tracked eight penguins with satellite tags over a year, also found that they commonly traveled over 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) beyond the species range defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is based on studies of adult emperor penguins from a few other colonies. Considered immature until about 4 years of age, juvenile emperor penguins are more vulnerable than adults because they have not fully developed foraging and predator avoidance skills. As climate change reduces sea-ice habitat and opens up new areas of the Southern Ocean to commercial fishing, the researchers conclude that greatly expanded MPAs are crucial to protect this iconic, yetthreatened, penguin species at every life stage.

"While everyone is looking at the adult population, the juvenile population -- which leaves the relative safety of its parents at about five months -- is neither monitored nor protected," said Dan Zitterbart, a WHOI associate scientist. "The current and proposed MPAs in the Southern Ocean only include the range of adult emperor penguins, which do not travel as far as juveniles. From a conservation perspective, it's important to know where these juveniles go. It's one more piece of the puzzle to protect their marine habitat."

"Emperor penguins have such low fecundity, if you do not protect juveniles, they may not ever become breeding adults," he continued.

Zitterbart and colleagues at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco (CSM), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Université de Strasbourg in France, and the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany are conducting a long-term monitoring study of the Atka Bay emperor penguin colony near Neumayer Station III, on the Weddell Sea. The Weddell Sea area is home to one-third of established emperor penguin colonies, and research shows that colonies in the region, including the Ross Sea, are less vulnerable to climate-induced melting than other areas of the Antarctic.

"Some of the Weddell Sea colonies are expected to still be present 50 to 100 years from now," said Aymeric Houstin, a WHOI post-doctoral investigator and the lead author of the study. "It's important to preserve colonies that will be able to endure climate change, as they could become a refuge for the entire population of emperor penguins."

According to studies, 12 percent of the area under CCAMLR jurisdiction is currently protected as an MPA, and less than 5 percent is considered a "no-take" area. For several years, the 26 members of CCAMLR have been considering three new MPAs in the region, including the Weddell Sea MPA, first developed by Germany, and submitted by the European Union in 2013. While this MPA would cover an area of 2.2 million square kilometers (0.85 million square miles), preserving one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world and a critical zone for global ocean circulation, the authors say that the boundaries are inadequate to protect juvenile emperor penguins.

"The Weddell Sea MPA design, as the other MPAs around Antarctica, should include the distribution at sea of all age-classes of the emperor penguin population -- not only the adults from a few study colonies," said Céline Le Bohec, of CNRS/Université de Strasbourg France and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco. "Juveniles are currently clearly lacking protection and their presence in the Northern waters needs to be considered in the future, especially regarding the development of fisheries in those regions."

Over the next decades, the researchers plan to continue tagging both adult and juvenile penguins from the Atka Bay colony to track their movements and behavior as the environment changes. With more long-term data, Houstin suggests that a "dynamic MPA" could be developed with shifting boundaries, based on predictions of penguins' movements throughout the year.

"This notion of a dynamic network of MPAs is really essential," Le Bohec said. "It's certainly the way to continue the dialogue with the fishing industry to ensure the resource is used in a sustainable manner, to ultimately preserve the unique biodiversity of these sensitive polar regions."

Aymeric Houstin, Daniel P. Zitterbart, Karine Heerah, Olaf Eisen, Víctor Planas-Bielsa, Ben Fabry, Céline Le Bohec. Juvenile emperor penguin range calls for extended conservation measures in the Southern Ocean. Royal Society Open Science, 2022; 9 (8) DOI: 10.1098/rsos.211708

This spider-eatingnest-sharing bat was once safe from fire – until the Black Summer burnt its rainforests

George MadaniAuthor provided
Christopher TurbillWestern Sydney University and Brad LawQueensland University of Technology

Am I not pretty enough? This article is part of The Conversation’s series introducing you to unloved Australian animals that need our help.

Golden-tipped bats are peculiar creatures. By night, they hunt the understorey for orb-weaving spiders, plucking them carefully from their sticky webs. By day, they roost in excavated basements at the bottom of nests made by two rainforest birds.

Unfortunately, while their rainforest nests usually keep them safe from fire, our new research found that’s no longer guaranteed. Rainforests grow in areas normally unburnt by fires. But ahead of the 2019/2020 Black Summer of fire, many of these areas had dried out, setting the stage for fires of unprecedented size and intensity. As a result, large areas of rainforest along the coasts of south-eastern Australia were badly burnt.

Our study confirms expert predictions that rainforest-dependent golden-tipped bats would be hard hit. We found the fires caused a large reduction in suitable habitat.

The golden-tipped bat, Phoniscus papuensis George MadaniAuthor provided

Why Is This Rainforest Bat So Special?

Like birds, Australia’s many bat species come in many different shapes and sizes. Some fly fast in open air while others fly slowly with great agility amongst cluttered vegetation. The delicate golden-tipped bat is a “clutter specialist”, hunting in the understorey and plucking its favourite orb-weaver spiders from their webs without getting caught. Its wings are optimised for slow, careful flight.

Amazingly, golden-tipped bats roost in chambers they dig out underneath the elaborate suspended nests of two birds, the yellow-throated scrubwren and brown gerygone. These birds make their nests in patches of moist vegetation, which infiltrates the dryer eucalypt forests along a network of gully lines, up and down Australia’s east coast.

The birds have the top bunk, and the tiny bats – all six grams of them – make room in the basement. The woolly, golden-coloured fur of the roosting bats matches their mossy bird-built homes.

These daytime rainforest refuges give these bats access to wet and dry forests, allowing them to forage more widely at night.

bat roost in nest
A cluster of golden-tipped bats roosting in a space they’ve dug out underneath a suspended nest of the yellow-throated scrubwren. Fiona BackhouseAuthor provided

Why Are Fires Such Bad News In Rainforests?

Animals in fire-prone eucalypt forests have evolved mechanisms to cope with bushfires. But rainforest plants and animals have not had to learn these tricks. In rainforests, fire is a rare and destructive event.

Fire events classified as extreme occur infrequently (by definition) and we rarely have an opportunity to measure their impacts on forest wildlife. Climate change has been linked to increasingly dangerous fire weather conditions and more frequent extreme-level megafires in south-eastern Australia.

To find out what this means, our study measured the impact of the 2019/20 megafires on this bat.

What Did We Do?

A year after the fires, we set harp traps in rainforest sites ranging from badly burnt to entirely unburnt. Our goal was to understand if golden-tipped bats occurred at each site and to use these data to model the effects of the fire on habitat for this species.

We set these harp traps to catch golden-tipped bats at unburnt (left) and burnt (right) sites. Author provided

The result? At sites where high intensity fire had raged, we found modelled occupancy fell sharply from 90% to 20%. Even a year later, badly burnt rainforest was no longer used by this species.

At burnt sites there were also few scrubwrens and gerygones, and almost none of their nests. On the plus side, in unburnt rainforest, we captured 66 golden-tipped bats, showing this elusive and poorly studied species persists in reasonable numbers.

We attached tiny radio-transmitters to our captured bats to see how they moved and roosted in fire-affected habitat. Tracking bats across steep gullies of thick bush was hard work, as they moved almost daily to new roosts.

The bats chose their roosts in unburnt patches, which wasn’t surprising given that their preferred bird nests were readily consumed by fire. Their avoidance of burnt areas could suggest movements will be limited across fire-affected landscapes.

Golden-tipped bats showed a strong preference for roosting in unburnt locations. In this figure, bat roosts (blue triangles) and trap sites (yellow dots) are shown against mapped fire impacts at one study area.

Our study also tested whether a humble mop head could act as a stop-gap roost for these bats until the scrubwrens and gerygones could return and build new nests.

Why mops? Because these bats have previously been found roosting in an old mop head.

So far, we haven’t recorded them making use of the mops but we will continue to monitor them over the coming breeding season.

Mop heads were tested as artificial roosting habitat for golden-tipped bats.

What Happens If Extreme Fires Become Common?

In many dry eucalypt forests, corridors of rainforest following gullies and creeks offer vital food and shelter for wildlife like the golden-tipped bat, significantly increasing local biodiversity.

Climate change poses a threat to rainforest-dependent wildlife in south-eastern Australia, by drying out soils, intensifying drought and increasing severe fire weather. Combined, these make it possible for unburnt rainforest to go up in flames.

Animals that rely on rainforests are not adapted to cope with fire. Increases in frequency of extreme fire events as the world warms will cause major disruption to the forests of south-eastern Australia.

These unusual golden-tipped bats roost underneath the hanging nests of two rainforest birds. Video by Lachlan Hall and George Madani.

George Madani and Anna Lloyd contributed to this research.The Conversation

Christopher Turbill, Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology, Western Sydney University and Brad Law, Principal Research Scientist at NSW Primary Industries and Adjunct Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

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

Labor’s biodiversity market scheme needs to be planned well – or it could lead to greenwashing

Gilberto Olimpio/UnsplashCC BY-SA
Felicity DeaneQueensland University of Technology

Businesses and philanthropic organisations are looking to invest in projects to protect and restore nature. We need to make this easier.

Which major political party’s minister said this? If you guessed Labor, correct – it was environment minister Tanya Plibersek last week. But the phrase is strikingly similar to one made by the Coalition’s David Littleproud.

In fact, Labor’s proposed biodiversity market borrows heavily from the previous government’s approach. In brief, landholders would be able to buy and sell biodiversity certificates. A farmer seeking to clear land could buy a certificate created by another farmer who has restored native vegetation elsewhere.

The federal government should tread very carefully here. New South Wales’ environmental offset scheme has been slammed for failing to do what it was meant to do, and with the major problems in Australia’s carbon offset program.

If not designed well, schemes like this can very easily be gamed and fail to actually achieve their goals.

Passing The Baton

In February this year, the Morrison government introduced a bill aimed at creating a market for farmers to boost biodiversity on their land. It was heralded as a world first – but that is not quite true.

While both the Coalition and Labor governments want to claim credit for the invention of the scheme, similar biodiversity schemes have been introduced in other countries. The United Kingdom and Canada have matched market-based approaches with policies aimed at ensuring a biodiversity net gain. That is, any biodiversity loss through development must be offset with certificates that represent an even greater biodiversity gain. That is the theory at least.

The Coalition’s proposed market was designed to reward landholders on farmland with a tradeable certificate when they agreed to undertake projects to protect and enhance native species. These certificates can be sold to a third party, who may use them to compensate for biodiversity loss through development or to support their sustainability goals.

Just six months later, Labor announced a seemingly very similar proposal, though details are currently sparse. We do know Labor’s version is intended to eventually be funded largely by the corporate sector.

Agriculture covers a majority of Australia’s land, making it a vital part of biodiversity protection. Mitchell Luo/UnsplashCC BY

This Approach Could Help – But Only If Planned Properly

One key difference is the scale. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made it clear the market would be open to all land managers, whether farmers, conservationists looking to re-wild land, or Indigenous land managers.

Although the government suggests the scheme would operate in a similar way to existing carbon credit legislation, the rhetoric indicates certificates may not only compensate for projects which cause biodiversity loss, but allow corporations to meet their environmental, social and governance goals. This is potentially legitimate, but could also be used for greenwashing.

The problem is, offsets don’t always work. In the environment sector, offsets are seen as a measure of last resort, which can – depending on the specific transaction – actually lead to an overall loss of species or habitat.

The government must learn from the integrity questions around Australia’s carbon credit scheme.

For a biodiversity market to be effective, you need available land and willing participants, who expect a positive return on investment. That means the price for certificates has to be worth the cost of actually doing restoration work.

And the government must ensure the scheme is watertight, given the major integrity and transparency issues in the carbon credit scheme called out by whistleblowers and academics.

To avoid this, it is vital these biodiversity certificates represent provable biodiversity gains and that the details of these gains are known to any purchasers. Buyers will be a lot more confident if they know the certificates they are buying come from, say, a farmer restoring native vegetation along a previously cleared creek.

The government is aware of this. They are still deciding how best to measure and verify biodiversity benefits. This will be one of the greatest challenges of introducing this scheme.

A key question is how to measure biodiversity improvements. Nathan Jennings/UnsplashCC BY

A Biodiversity Market Cannot Stop Degradation By Itself

Sceptical commentators claim environmental markets are a false solution to a serious ecological emergency. This is true, if we rely on the market approach in isolation.

A biodiversity market is not a silver bullet to our many serious and overlapping environmental problems. Improving the outlook for our many ailing species and ecosystems will require work on many fronts, such as funding protected areas, working to bring back threatened species, tackling land clearing, working on carbon banking and accelerating climate action.

To give the scheme teeth, Australia should look to the UK and Canadian approach of requiring a net environmental gain on a national level.

Many Australian states already require no net loss of biodiversity from developments and policies. Even so, these policies have not always stopped large scale land clearing due to exemptions. Similarly, the loss of one habitat is not always compensated by gain of another habitat. Labor must tighten up these loopholes.

We must see this biodiversity market scheme clearly. It is only one method of improving environmental outcomes in this country. We’ll need many more.

.The Conversation

Felicity Deane, Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology

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

‘One of the most progressive and environmentally conscious legal texts on the planet’: Chile’s proposed constitution and its lessons for Australia

Olga Stalska/UnsplashCC BY
Ana Estefanía CarballoThe University of Melbourne and Erin Fitz-HenryThe University of Melbourne

Chile may soon be the second country in the world to grant constitutional rights to nature, under astoundingly progressive reforms proposed by the government. If approved in the national referendum on 4 September, the new constitution would deliver profound changes to the country.

It’s no surprise that 50 of the 387 constitutional provisions concern the environment. Like Australia, Chile is facing mounting environmental pressures. This includes an escalating water crisis made significantly more challenging by the mining industry, long seen as a key pillar of the economy.

The proposed constitution seeks to rapidly pivot Chile toward ecological democracy, one that can transition an economy long dependent on mineral extraction toward cleaner, less resource-intensive, and more socially just forms of living – _buen vivir_.

While the votes aren’t yet in, there are valuable lessons in this process for Australia and other countries grappling with similar concerns.

An Era Of Change

This era of constitutional change began in 2019, when over one million Chileans took to the streets to voice their discontent over economic and social conditions in the country.

Initially unstructured and spontaneous, the protests were sparked by an increase in public transport costs, but quickly coalesced into a widespread constitutional crisis.

This crisis was an outcry against the deeply entrenched socio-economic inequalities seen as rooted in and perpetuated by the country’s legal framework. This is a legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), which saw soaring wealth inequalities and power concentrated in the hands of business elites and private corporations.

In the face of both social and ecological breakdown, further intensified by the arrival of COVID-19, over 80% of Chileans voted in favour of re-writing the constitution in 2020.

In May 2021, a constitutional convention was elected, formed by 155 representatives from across the country. Notably, 50% of them were women, and it was led by Mapuche linguist and Indigenous rights activist Elisa Loncón.

In July 2022, the convention delivered the much-anticipated draft constitution, which was immediately heralded by supporters as an “ecological constitution”.

What Are The Reforms?

Over the last decade, both Ecuador and Bolivia have been at the global forefront of advocating for the “rights of nature” or “the rights of Mother Earth”. These rights have made it possible to bring cases on behalf of ecosystems into courts, and to challenge the extractive imperatives of state ministries.

The proposed changes to Chile’s constitution build on these experiments, but take them considerably further.

Not only would Chile become the second nation after Ecuador to grant nature constitutional rights, they would also create an “ombudsman for nature” tasked with monitoring and enforcing them. According to the draft text, it would be the duty of the “state and society to protect and respect these rights”.

Chile has vast reserves of lithium deposits. Shutterstock

Citizens would also be empowered to bring environmental lawsuits, even before an environmental impact assessment has been approved. The monitoring of these rights would extend all the way down to the local level, decentralising environmental regulatory authority that has historically been concentrated in the capital of Santiago.

But perhaps even more significant are the proposals aiming to reverse another legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship: Chile’s decades-long privatisation of water.

Chile is in an unprecedented water crisis, with over half of its 19 million people living in areas of severe water scarcity. Communities have fought numerous legal battles against extractive companies over a water allocation system that’s strongly biased toward industry.

Articles in the proposed constitution concerning water rights, the human rights of water, and the protection of glaciers and wetlands significantly roll back these trends. They declare that water is not a commodity but, instead, incomerciable or “unsellable”.

Overturning this decades-long controversial market mechanism is the direct result of involving social and Indigenous movements in the constitutional process. It reflects and affirms their often-repeated recognition that Agua es vida, or “water is life”.

Beyond enshrining water protection measures, the draft constitution represents a renewed effort to bolster Chile’s natural resources governance, a move with significant impacts on the mining industry. It specifies that exploration and exploitation of mineral resources should ensure environmental protection and the interest of future generations.

There are also requirements to ensure sustainable management of land sites after a mine has closed, and for the promotion of value chain linkages (where mineral processing occurs in the country and benefits its people).

Such considerations are particularly crucial for the global transition towards renewable energy, which poses high demands on Chile’s copper and lithium industry, minerals used for energy storage.

The global rush for these minerals is increasing governance challenges and putting pressure on communities already under environmental and water stress. Strong legal support for a more equitable, fair and sustainable governance framework is imperative.

Lessons For The World

Many questions remain about how these reforms would be put into practice. Nevertheless, they represent the culmination of dialogue between sectors that have historically been excluded from political power.

Australia has much to learn from this process. Most important, perhaps, is that despite the resistance of pro-market sectors, including the mining industry, sweeping and rapid transformations are indeed imaginable in the climate crisis. Other worlds are possible. Other forms of democratic practices are possible.

Addressing climate change while ensuring a sustainable energy transition with inter-generational and inter-cultural equity means prioritising the voices of those who have been systematically excluded – particularly Indigenous communities. Australia would do well to heed this lesson.

And the lessons aren’t just for Australia. While many countries have reluctantly acknowledged the climate emergency that continues to engulf us, Chile is nearly alone globally in acting with the sense of urgency required. What it has already achieved is historic.

From an outcry in the streets to the election of an outstandingly diverse constitutional convention, Chile has crafted one of the most progressive and environmentally conscious legal texts on the planet. Chile’s experience demonstrates that bold, just, and democratic action is not only possible, but necessary.The Conversation

Ana Estefanía Carballo, Honorary Research Fellow in Mining and Society, School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Melbourne and Erin Fitz-Henry, Deputy Coordinator - Anthropology, Development Studies & Social Theory, The University of Melbourne

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

What’s going on with the Greenland ice sheet? It’s losing ice faster than forecast and now irreversibly committed to at least 10 inches of sea level rise

A turbulent melt-river pours a million tons of water a day into a moulin, where it flows down through the ice to ultimately reach the ocean. Ted Giffords
Alun HubbardUniversity of Tromsø

I’m standing at the edge of the Greenland ice sheet, mesmerized by a mind-blowing scene of natural destruction. A milewide section of glacier front has fractured and is collapsing into the ocean, calving an immense iceberg.

Seracs, giant columns of ice the height of three-story houses, are being tossed around like dice. And the previously submerged portion of this immense block of glacier ice just breached the ocean – a frothing maelstrom flinging ice cubes of several tons high into the air. The resulting tsunami inundates all in its path as it radiates from the glacier’s calving front.

Fortunately, I’m watching from a clifftop a couple of miles away. But even here, I can feel the seismic shocks through the ground.

A large iceberg calves off a glacier.
A fast-flowing outlet glacier calves a ‘megaberg’ into Greenland’s Uummannaq Fjord. Alun Hubbard

Despite the spectacle, I’m keenly aware that this spells yet more unwelcome news for the world’s low-lying coastlines.

As a field glaciologist, I’ve worked on ice sheets for more than 30 years. In that time, I have witnessed some gobsmacking changes. The past few years in particular have been unnerving for the sheer rate and magnitude of change underway. My revered textbooks taught me that ice sheets respond over millennial time scales, but that’s not what we’re seeing today.

A study published Aug. 29, 2022, demonstrates – for the first time – that Greenland’s ice sheet is now so out of balance with prevailing Arctic climate that it no longer can sustain its current size. It is irreversibly committed to retreat by at least 59,000 square kilometers (22,780 square miles), an area considerably larger than Denmark, Greenland’s protectorate state.

Even if all the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming ceased today, we find that Greenland’s ice loss under current temperatures will raise global sea level by at least 10.8 inches (27.4 centimeters). That’s more than current models forecast, and it’s a highly conservative estimate. If every year were like 2012, when Greenland experienced a heat wave, that irreversible commitment to sea level rise would triple. That’s an ominous portent given that these are climate conditions we have already seen, not a hypothetical future scenario.

Our study takes a completely new approach – it is based on observations and glaciological theory rather than sophisticated numerical models. The current generation of coupled climate and ice sheet models used to forecast future sea level rise fail to capture the emerging processes that we see amplifying Greenland’s ice loss.

How Greenland Got To This Point

The Greenland ice sheet is a massive, frozen reservoir that resembles an inverted pudding bowl. The ice is in constant flux, flowing from the interior – where it is over 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) thick, cold and snowy – to its edges, where the ice melts or calves bergs.

In all, the ice sheet locks up enough fresh water to raise global sea level by 24 feet (7.4 meters).

David Attenborough takes us on a virtuoso tour of the Greenland ice sheet.

Greenland’s terrestrial ice has existed for about 2.6 million years and has expanded and contracted with two dozen or so “ice age” cycles lasting 70,000 or 100,000 years, punctuated by around 10,000-year warm interglacials. Each glacial is driven by shifts in Earth’s orbit that modulate how much solar radiation reaches the Earth’s surface. These variations are then reinforced by snow reflectivity, or albedo; atmospheric greenhouse gases; and ocean circulation that redistributes that heat around the planet.

We are currently enjoying an interglacial period – the Holocene. For the past 6,000 years Greenland, like the rest of the planet, has benefited from a mild and stable climate with an ice sheet in equilibrium – until recently. Since 1990, as the atmosphere and ocean have warmed under rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, Greenland’s mass balance has gone into the red. Ice losses due to enhanced melt, rain, ice flow and calving now far exceed the net gain from snow accumulation.

Greenland’s ice mass loss measured by NASA’s Grace satellites.

What Does The Future Hold?

The critical questions are, how fast is Greenland losing its ice, and what does it mean for future sea level rise?

Greenland’s ice loss has been contributing about 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) per year to global sea level rise over the past decade.

This net loss is split between surface melt and dynamic processes that accelerate outlet glacier flow and are greatly exacerbated by atmospheric and oceanic warming, respectively. Though complex in its manifestation, the concept is simple: Ice sheets don’t like warm weather or baths, and the heat is on.

A large area of meltwater pools on the snowy Greenland surface and forms a river and streams.
Meltwater lakes feed rivers that snake across the ice sheet - until they encounter a moulin. Alun Hubbard

What the future will bring is trickier to answer.

The models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict a sea level rise contribution from Greenland of around 4 inches (10 centimeters) by 2100, with a worst-case scenario of 6 inches (15 centimeters).

But that prediction is at odds with what field scientists are witnessing from the ice sheet itself.

According to our findings, Greenland will lose at least 3.3% of its ice, over 100 trillion metric tons. This loss is already committed – ice that must melt and calve icebergs to reestablish Greenland’s balance with prevailing climate.

We’re observing many emerging processes that the models don’t account for that increase the ice sheet’s vulnerability. For example:

Weather stations sit atop wet snow in Greenland
In August 2021, rain fell at the Greenland ice sheet summit for the first time on record. Weather stations across Greenland captured rapid ice melt. European Space Agency

The Issue With Models

Part of the problem is that the models used for forecasting are mathematical abstractions that include only processes that are fully understood, quantifiable and deemed important.

Models reduce reality to a set of equations that are solved repeatedly on banks of very fast computers. Anyone into cutting-edge engineering – including me – knows the intrinsic value of models for experimentation and testing of ideas. But they are no substitute for reality and observation. It is apparent that current model forecasts of global sea level rise underestimate its actual threat over the 21st century. Developers are making constant improvements, but it’s tricky, and there’s a dawning realization that the complex models used for long-term sea level forecasting are not fit for purpose.

Several brightly colored research tents dot a landscape with streams and snow on the ice sheet.
Author Alun Hubbard’s science camp in the melt zone of the Greenland ice sheet. Alun Hubbard

There are also “unknown unknowns” – those processes and feedbacks that we don’t yet realize and that models can never anticipate. They can be understood only by direct observations and literally drilling into the ice.

That’s why, rather than using models, we base our study on proven glaciological theory constrained by two decades of actual measurements from weather stations, satellites and ice geophysics.

It’s Not Too Late

It’s an understatement that the societal stakes are high, and the risk is tragically real going forward. The consequences of catastrophic coastal flooding as sea level rises are still unimaginable to the majority of the billion or so people who live in low-lying coastal zones of the planet.

A large sailing ship with an even larger iceberg behind it and a glacier in the distance.
A large tabular iceberg that calved off Store Glacier within Uummannaq Fjord. Alun Hubbard

Personally, I remain hopeful that we can get on track. I don’t believe we’ve passed any doom-laden tipping point that irreversibly floods the planet’s coastlines. Of what I understand of the ice sheet and the insight our new study brings, it’s not too late to act.

But fossil fuels and emissions must be curtailed now, because time is short and the water rises – faster than forecast.The Conversation

Alun Hubbard, Professor of Glaciology, Arctic Five Chair, University of Tromsø

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

7-star housing is a step towards zero carbon – but there’s much more to do, starting with existing homes

Gill ArmstrongClimateworks CentreAlan PearsRMIT UniversityMargot DelafoulhouzeClimateworks Centre, and Trivess MooreRMIT University

Energy-efficiency standards for new homes in Australia are being upgraded for the first time in a decade. New homes will be required to improve minimum performance from 6 stars to 7 stars under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). Federal, state and territory building ministers agreed on the change last Friday.

The rating will also use a whole-of-home energy “budget”. This will allow homes to meet the new standard in different ways. The standard will come into force in May 2023, and all new homes will have to comply by October 2023.

On Monday, the NSW government also announced large commercial developments, as well as big state projects, will have to submit a “net-zero statement” to gain planning approval. The statement must show their buildings are either all-electric or can fully convert to renewable energy by 2035. In addition, new homes and renovations will have to reach a 7-star rating under the state’s Building Sustainability Index (BASIX). The current minimum is 5.5 stars.

These upgrades represent a step in the right direction, but much more remains to be done to future-proof Australian homes. Buildings account for about 20% of the nation’s emissions. Further upgrades to the National Construction Code (NCC) are needed before 2030 to achieve Australia’s climate targets.

We’re Still Short Of Zero-Carbon Buildings

Across Australia, more than 5.5 million houses are predicted to be built between 2023 and 2050. The upgraded construction code means they will perform better in climate extremes and emit less carbon.

So this long-overdue change is good news for households and the planet. It means new houses will use an average of 24.5% less energy to keep warm and cool. And new condensation provisions will help to control mould growth, a health problem for tightly sealed homes with poor ventilation.

The International Energy Agency recommends advanced economies such as Australia have a “zero-carbon-ready building code” in place by the end of the 2020s. This would ensure all new buildings in the 2030s will be zero or near-zero carbon.

Governments around the world have already moved in this direction, including the European Union and California. Australia is still well behind international best practice in design and construction.

Best-in-class energy efficiency, full electrification and renewable energy supply will be crucial to fully decarbonise the building sector. Further updates to the National Construction Code in 2025 and 2028 will need to ensure Australia implements a “zero-carbon-ready” building code by 2030. Only then can Australia deliver on its legislated climate targets and protect Australians from a warming climate and higher energy prices.

Cost Arguments Against Further Upgrades Don’t Stack Up

Australia can’t wait another decade to upgrade building standards again. Arguments against higher standards tend to focus on the ticket price of new houses, but most homes are bought with mortgage loans and monthly repayments.

Higher standards would reduce energy consumption to near zero, providing a buffer against energy price spikes and increases. Low or negative energy bills (as a result of payments for exporting electricity) will largely offset the initial cost of building better-performing homes. Households will also be less vulnerable to wider climatic events such as heatwaves.

A cornerstone of the policy-making process is cost-benefit analysis undertaken by government. The analysis behind the NCC update failed to fully grasp the economic, social and environmental benefits of higher standards.

Cost-benefit guidelines, which are set by the Office of Best Practice Regulation, should be reviewed. Any analysis must properly reflect costs and benefits over the lifetime of a home, including the impacts of reduced energy and health bills on mortgage repayments. Ensuring further changes to the NCC accurately represent the full benefits will be critical to avoid another decade of stalled action.

Banks have already started to recognise the value of sustainable housing. Their lowest mortgage rates are for new green homes.

What About All The Existing Homes?

While ensuring all new buildings are built to zero-carbon standards after 2030 will be important, improving the quality and performance of the majority of Australia’s 10.9 million homes is equally if not more important. Existing building stocks are inadequate – most housing was built before energy performance standards existed.

A major wave of retrofitting is needed to upgrade these homes. Deeper upgrades can be done during renovations to deliver improved performance, safe indoor temperatures and lower energy use and bills.

Existing Australian homes for the most part rate below 2 stars in energy performance. Their occupants experience extremes of temperature during summer and in winter in areas such as Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Tasmania.

Extreme hot and cold are harmful to human health. The impacts are greatest for people on low incomes and/or who rent.

We have many examples of how to cost-effectively retrofit housing. These changes can have significant impacts on household bills and health.

Retrofitting will be more resource-efficient than demolishing and rebuilding. It will also retain the architectural and heritage value of our cities and suburbs.

However, a number of measures will be required to retrofit housing on the scale needed. These include financial incentives from banks, government subsidies, minimum requirements at point of sale, minimum rental standards, education of landlords, etc.

Net-Zero Code And Retrofitting Should Be Top Of The Agenda

Australian building ministers are due to meet again early next year. They must quickly turn their attention to ensuring the 2025 and 2028 upgrades pave the way to a zero-carbon-ready building code by 2030.

Governments should also work towards a national retrofit wave strategy that aims for a step change in the energy performance of existing homes. Essential elements of the strategy include the introduction of mandatory disclosure of home energy performance and the full electrification of Australian homes.

Without such changes, Australian housing and households risk being locked into poor-quality, under-performing and costly housing for decades.The Conversation

Gill Armstrong, Senior Project Manager – Buildings, Climateworks CentreAlan Pears, Senior Industry Fellow, RMIT UniversityMargot Delafoulhouze, Cities System Lead, Climateworks Centre, and Trivess Moore, Senior Lecturer, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University

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

The ‘yuck factor’ pushes a premier towards desalination yet again, but history suggests recycled water’s time has come

Margaret CookUniversity of the Sunshine CoastAndrea GaynorThe University of Western AustraliaLionel FrostMonash UniversityPeter SpearrittThe University of Queensland, and Ruth MorganAustralian National University

A battle is brewing in South-East Queensland over water. Despite heavy rains and flooding, the water supply authority, Seqwater, has flagged the need to find more water sources to keep up with urban growth.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has already expressed a preference for building a desalination plant on the Sunshine Coast instead of using recycled water. Perhaps her government wants to avoid a repeat of the divisive 2006 debate over water recycling in Toowoomba – dubbed “Poowoomba” at the time.

Our new book, Cities in a Sunburnt Country, traces the fraught history with recycled water in Australia’s biggest cities. A focus on expanding capacity to extract or produce more potable water has dominated urban water policy in Australia. City residents have come to expect abundant water from sources they perceive as “pure”: dams, aquifers and desalination.

Continuing down this path is not sustainable. Yet once again a state government looks set to pursue the costlyenergy-intensive desalination option.

A History Of Being Diverted By Desalination

Desalination has been a reassuring project in times of crisis, but has not always proven its value. In response to the impacts on city water supplies of the Millennium Drought (2001–09), desalination plants were built to supply most of the capital cities.

In 2006, Perth residents became the first in Australia to drink desalinated seawater. By 2012, desalination plants had been built to supply Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

2005 poll commissioned by “SCUD” (Sydney Community United against Desalination) found 60% of Sydney residents opposed a desalination plant. The following year a parliamentary inquiry concluded such a plant would not be needed if the government pursued water recycling and reuse strategies. The plant was still built.

The Victorian government also faced a backlash when it announced in 2007 a privately financed plant near Wonthaggi on the Bass Coast. Completed in 2012, the plant was mothballed until 2017.

There Are Better Alternatives

In 2011 the Productivity Commission found only some desalination infrastructure was justified. Other projects could have been deferred, made smaller, or replaced by lower-cost sources, including recycled water.

During the Millennium Drought, the Beattie government built the Brisbane Water Grid connecting all major dams in South East Queensland. By 2008, the 600km network of pipelines was connected to the A$2.9 billion Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme. The state-owned desalination plant at Tugun on the Gold Coast was completed a year later.

Queensland had opted for a desal quick fix. The government went for the high-cost, high-energy and high-emissions road, instead of more sustainable approaches to potable water supplies and climate change. Today, while South-East Queensland’s population and water use continue to grow, the recycled water scheme only provides water for industry.

Recycled Water Is A Well-Proven Approach

Cities worldwide commonly use recycled wastewater to add to drinking water supplies, including Los Angeles, Singapore and London. Most residents of Australian cities are also drinking some treated wastewater. Hinterland towns discharge treated wastewater into rivers that eventually flow into dams such as Warragamba and Wivenhoe (which supply Sydney and Brisbane respectively).

In 2018, the Productivity Commission’s National Water Reform Report recommended an integrated approach that included reusing urban wastewater and/or stormwater. Implementation has been slow, however. Only one Australian capital has officially overcome the “yuck factor”.

Perth stores treated wastewater in aquifers beneath the suburbs before returning it to the city’s taps. The state-owned Water Corporation’s 50-year plan, Water Forever, includes a 60% increase in wastewater recycling. Even then the state’s main strategy for eliminating the gap between future water demand and supply is desalination, despite strong community support for large-scale recycling.

In Adelaide and Brisbane, wastewater and stormwater are treated and reused only for industry, irrigation and energy production. As the Millennium Drought fades from public memory, state governments have also retreated from attempts to encourage household water tanks.

By 2050 as many as 10 million extra people may live in Australia’s capital cities. All of them will expect a reliable supply of clean water inside and outside their homes.

Our book shows how governments have historically favoured development of new water sources or desalination over recycling or demand management. These approaches do little to help us learn to use water more wisely in our cities and suburbs. Recycled water, education campaigns and demand management must play a greater role in securing future water supplies.The Conversation

Margaret Cook, Lecturer in History, University of the Sunshine CoastAndrea Gaynor, Professor of History, The University of Western AustraliaLionel Frost, Associate Professor of Economics, Monash UniversityPeter Spearritt, Emeritus Professor, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland, and Ruth Morgan, Associate Professor of History, Australian National University

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

A new discovery shows major flowering plants are 150 million years older than previously thought

Prof Shuo Wang/Shi et al., 2022Author provided
Byron LamontCurtin University

A major group of flowering plants that are still around today, emerged 150 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study published today in Trends in Plant Science. This means flowering plants were around some 50 million years before the dinosaurs.

The plants in question are known as the buckthorn family or Rhamnaceae, a group of trees, shrubs and vines found worldwide. The finding comes from subjecting data on 100-million-year old flowers to powerful molecular clock techniques – as a result, we now know Rhamnaceae arose more than 250 million years ago.

A Widespread Family

Today, the buckthorn family of shrubs is widespread throughout Africa, Australia, North and South America, Asia and Europe. The important fruit jujube or Chinese date belongs to the Rhamnaceae; other species are used in ornamental horticulture, as sources of medicine, timber and dyes, and to add nitrogen to the soil.

Flowering shoots of the shrub Phylica, now confined to South Africa, have recently been found in amber from Myanmar that is more than 100 million years old.

Close-up of a leafy green plants with brownish plum-shaped fruit
Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) belongs to the buckthorn family. Alex___photo/Shutterstock

Together with Tianhua He, a molecular geneticist at Murdoch University, we combined skills to show these new fossils of Phylica could be used to trace the Rhamnaceae family (to which Phylica belongs) back to its origin almost 260 million years ago.

We did this by comparing the DNA of living plants of Phylica against the rate of DNA change over the past 120 million years, to set the molecular clock for the rest of the family.

Close-up of a slightly fuzzy, spider-like flower head frozen in amber
This Phylica flower was trapped in tree sap along with some charcoal over 100 million years ago. Time has turned it to amber. Prof Shuo Wang/Shi et al. 2022Author provided

Older Than We Could Have Imagined

It was previously believed that Phylica evolved about 20 million years ago and Rhamnaceae about 100 million years ago, so these new dates are much older than botanists could possibly have imagined. Since Rhamnaceae is not even considered an old member of the flowering plants, this means flowering plants arose more than 300 million years ago – some 50 million years before the rise of the dinosaurs.

Close-up of a spiny plant with daisy-like flowers perched on each stem
Phylica pubescens, also known as featherhead. Molly NZ/Shutterstock

But how did Phylica get from the Cape of South Africa to Myanmar? Our data on the history of the plant’s evolution show the most likely path is that Phylica migrated to Madagascar, then to the far north of India (most of which is under the Himalayas now), all of which were joined 120 million years ago.

India then separated and drifted north until it collided with Asia. The far northeast section, known as the Burma tectonic plate, became Myanmar about 60 million years ago. Sap, possibly released by fire-injured conifers, flowed over the Phylica flowers and preserved them intact as amber while India was still attached to Madagascar.

Forged In Fires

In fact, the vegetation in which Rhamnaceae evolved was probably subjected to regular fires. The first clue was the charcoal researchers have found together with the Phylica fossils in the amber.

The second is that today, almost all living species in the Phylica subfamily have hard seeds that require fire to stimulate them to germinate.

I assessed the fire-related traits of as many living species as possible, then He traced them onto the evolutionary tree he had created, using a technique called ancestral trait assignment. This showed there was a strong possibility the earliest Rhamnaceae ancestor was fire-prone and produced hard seeds.

We have extensively studied the evolutionary fire history of banksias, which go back 65 million years, along with proteaspineswire rushes and the kangaroo paw family.

Our new results make the buckthorn family of plants by far the oldest to show fire-related traits of all the plants we have studied over the past 12 years.The Conversation

Byron Lamont, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Plant Ecology, Curtin University

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

Scientists release world-first DNA map of an endangered Australian mouse, and it will help to save it

David Paul, Museums VictoriaCC BY
Parwinder KaurThe University of Western Australia

The native Australian rodent Pseudomys fumeus, named smoky mouse for its colour, was already fighting off extinction when the 2019–20 bushfire season hit.

The Black Summer bushfires, which torched more than 24 million hectares, may have killed an estimated 1 billion animals and put more than 100 threatened species at risk. The fires also destroyed more than 90% of the smoky mouse’s habitat, with nine mice even dying at a captive breeding facility near Canberra from bushfire smoke inhalation.

But all is not lost – a newly sequenced reference genome will now help the ongoing conservation efforts of this native Australian species.

Precious Pockets Of Mice

We haven’t seen wild smoky mice in the Australian Capital Territory since 1987. In Victoria, the species is only around in the Grampians, Central Highlands and alpine regions, and in New South Wales in the alpine regions of Kosciuszko National Park and southeastern forests near Nullica.

An active recovery plan was established for the mouse in 2006. As part of this, conservationists started two captive populations, with releases taking place into southeastern forests near Nullica, and a predator-proof reserve in the ACT.

These little native mice are beyond cute, roughly double the size of the introduced house mouse (Mus musculus). Their charcoal fur is soft and silky, and they smell really nice, too. Males especially smell kind of like smoky burnt vanilla; these animals have lovely, calm temperaments.

In the past 12 months, a Museums Victoria Research Institute team has been undertaking surveys to search for surviving pockets of the endangered mouse’s population with an eye towards future reintroduction efforts of captive bred mice.

To support these ongoing conservation efforts, DNA Zoo at The University of Western Australia teamed up with Museums Victoria Senior Curator of Mammals Kevin Rowe to sequence a world-first full chromosome-length reference genome for the animal.

A small, grey rodent with round ears looking towards the camera, sitting on a rock
Conservationists have been working to save the smoky mouse with an active recovery plan since 2006. David Paul, Museums VictoriaCC BY

Protecting What We Have

We can now use this reference genome to inform conservation strategy. Researchers will map 70 individual smoky mouse DNA sequences from across the animal’s habitat range – in the Grampians in western Victoria to southeastern New South Whales.

Increasing our understanding of living wildlife and responsibly stewarding available resources are among the most crucial scientific and social challenges we face today.

Despite great technological advances, there’s much we don’t know about Australia’s native biodiversity. At the same time, it’s increasingly threatened by wildfires, climate change, habitat destruction, species exploitation and other human-related activities.

Thankfully, we can use genomics to help formulate an informed conservation strategy. That’s because sampling genomic diversity can give us a baseline understanding of how well the species is faring (what biologists call “population fitness”). With that knowledge in hand, we can better design conservation programs.

For example, in endangered species with severely reduced populations, we can avoid inbreeding if we use genomic data to help design breeding programs. That way, the animals will have fewer genes that lead to premature death, and have increased disease resistance.

Consulting The Genetic Blueprints

Obtaining the genetic blueprints for Australian wildlife will create a powerful source of discovery for improving and increasing ecosystem services. A well-designed monitoring framework is crucial to the on-ground success of conservation programs.

As part of the recovery plan for the smoky mouse, we have DNA sequences from individuals in the Grampians, as well as historical samples dating back to 1934 from extinct populations in the Otways and Far East Gippsland.

The Grampians samples are of particular interest. That’s because this population is the most isolated, removed by about 350 kilometres from the nearest known population in the Yarra Ranges of the Central Highlands.

Since 2012, Museums Victoria and partners have trapped, marked and collected samples – ear biopsies and poo pellets, neither of which are harmful to the animals – from more than 200 smoky mice in the Grampians. Thanks to this work, we now have the most numerous and continuous record of the species in Victoria.

An adorable, rat-like animal with a soft grey coat and cute pink nose
Some smoky mice have been discovered in the Grampians, far removed from others of their kind. David Paul, Museums VictoriaCC BY

In addition, trapping and wildlife camera surveys at more than 100 sites have revealed smoky mouse populations localised to two areas less than 10km from the Victoria Range and Mt William Range, respectively.

Researchers will now be looking for genetic clues on how these animals persisted despite drought, invasive predators and significant fire.

What’s encouraging is how powerful technology – such as genome sequencing, bioinformatics, and more combined together – is now helping us to understand and preserve biodiversity. For the first time in history, we can fast-track and efficiently sequence the genomes of our unique native Australian species.The Conversation

Parwinder Kaur, Associate Professor | Director, DNA Zoo Australia, The University of Western Australia

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

The surprising history of how electric vehicles have played the long game and won

An electric cab drives past the White House in Washington DC in 1905. Wikimedia Commons
Timothy MinchinLa Trobe University

Electric vehicles, we are often told, are the future. A whole range of carmakers and nations have plans to go electric.

The largest US manufacturer, General Motors, says it will phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2035. Norway has set a goal to end sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2025, the UK by 2030, and France by 2040.

In Australia, only about 2% of new cars sold today are electric. Federal government modelling in 2021 predicted a jump to 90% of the vehicle fleet by 2050.

The new federal government has put electric vehicles firmly on the agenda. Industry Minister Chris Bowen did so in a speech at the EV Summit on August 19. As global consultancy McKinsey and Co has declared, “the automotive future is electric”.

A Very Long And Troubled History

What is often overlooked is that electric vehicles have a history as well as a future. If we look back we can see they are not a futuristic dream but a longstanding transport option.

This history also illuminates the barriers that electric vehicles face – and are steadily overcoming. It is a troubled history with particular relevance to Australians, so long attached to internal combustion.

Electric vehicles have been around since car manufacturing beganRobert Davidson built the first practical electric vehicle – a 16-foot (4.9 metre) truck driven by electro-magnetic motors – in Scotland in 1837. This was decades before the internal combustion engine was invented.

As early as 1881, battery-operated buses operated in Paris. They were soon adopted in other cities, including Berlin, London and New York.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, electric car makers competed toe-to-toe with their emerging fossil-fuel rivals. Beginning in 1914, for example, the Detroit Taxicab and Transfer Company built and ran a fleet of nearly 100 electric taxis. This was not unusual. A New York Times article observed:

“At the turn of the 20th century, quiet, smooth, pollution-free electric cars were a common sight on the streets of major American cities.”

Made by the Anderson Carriage Company, the Detroit Electric was a mainstream model in the late 1910 and early 1920s. In an era when petrol-powered cars were smelly and greasy, electric cars were popular with women. Even Henry Ford’s wife, Clara, drove a Detroit Electric car until 1930 because she did not like the noise and fumes of the Ford Model T.

Although the internal combustion engine gradually gained the upper hand – partly because of the limited range of electric vehicles – little-known ventures into electric car-making continued. As author Tom Standage has written in his book, A Brief History of Motion, these vehicles have a “lost history” that is important to explore.

A New Post-War Breed

After the second world war, a new breed of electric vehicles emerged. Most were modified versions of fossil-fuelled cars. They included the 1959 Henney Kilowatt, which used a Renault Dauphine chassis and body, and the 1979-80 Lectric Leopard, made by the US Electricar Corporation, based on a Renault 5.

One of the most popular was the Citicar, built between 1974 and 1976 by the Sebring-Vanguard Company in Florida. Based in Massachusetts, Solectria later made the Solectria Force, derived from a GM Geo.

Although petrol-powered cars remained dominant, the electric car’s rise was predicted for decades. In the US, automotive writer David Ash saw electric cars as the future as early as 1967. “On a clear day, you will see the electric car,” he wrote, noting that it offered a solution to America’s rising air pollution and dependence on foreign oil. “Produce Electric Cars”, energy expert Edwin F. Shelley advocated in 1980, following the second oil crisis of the 1970s.

At the time, the US Congress agreed. It passed the 1976 Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Act with the aim of developing vehicles that did not depend on foreign oil.

In the late 1980s, GM developed the pioneering Impact (or EV1). The EV1 was ultimately killed when California – following sustained industry lobbying – reversed a strict emission mandate. In 2021, however, Automotive News declared the EV1 had “planted the seed for the industry embrace of EVs now”.

Breakthrough Depended On Better Batteries

Early electric vehicles suffered from limited battery range, a big drawback in large countries such as Australia and the US. The breakthrough came as early as the 1990s, when rechargeable lithium ion batteries emerged. Almost 20 years ago, Tesla was founded to take advantage of this technology.

Between 2008 and 2020, the price of battery packs dropped 80%, to around US$20,000. This made electric vehicles a viable alternative to fossil-fuel-powered cars, especially if government policies encouraged consumers to make the switch. In markets where such policies apply, they are making rapid strides.

History also informs us about the barriers to mass adoption of electric vehicles. The same concerns – range, lack of sound and smell, brand recognition – have been raised for decades. As David Ash wrote in 1967:

“The modern auto is only part transportation. It is also power symbol, magic carpet, toy and companion. Will we buy cars that cannot be made to roar?”

Red car from the 1960s
The 1960s production models of electric vehicles included the Henney Kilowatt. Wikimedia Commons

A Vehicle Whose Time Has Come

Today, the electric car’s hour seems to have finally come. In an era of climate change, tightening regulations aimed at the internal combustion engine are producing real change. In 2021, road vehicles produced 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions. As a 2017 New York Times editorial declared:

“There is simply no credible way to address climate change without changing the way we get from here to there […].”

The electric vehicle’s environmental credentials – noted by consumers in the early 20th as well as early 21st century – are overcoming the century-long dominance of the fossil-fuel-powered car. Rather than being new, electric cars have played – and are now winning - the long game.The Conversation

Timothy Minchin, Professor of History, La Trobe University

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 Grand Old Tree Of Angophora Reserve Falls Back To The Earth - History page
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
Seagull Pair At Turimetta Beach: Spring Is In The Air!
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
Stony Range Regional Botanical Garden: Some History On How A Reserve Became An Australian Plant Park
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Topham Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP,  August 2022 by Joe Mills and 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 -

2022 NSW Volunteer Of The Year Awards

The local 2022 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards winners were announced on Friday September 2nd 2022 at Dee Why RSL.  

Unfortunately our area, and those winners announced for the North Shore, show no award in the 'Young' section this year. Elsewhere there have been Young winners announced.

Along with the winners, certificates were issued to a variety of local volunteer organisations who have served the community, including the NSW SES Warringah / Pittwater Unit and NSW SES Manly Unit,  Harbord Strikers Football  and Narrabeen Lakes Swimming Club and Collaroy Amateur Swimming Club recognised.

The 2022 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award recipients for the here are:

Adult Volunteer of the Year – Dr Bo Zhou from Manly
Dr Zhou has been volunteering for more than 25 years at CASS, an organisation that services Chinese, Korean, Indonesian and other CALD communities. He began assisting with the Academy of Arts and has since provided a range of professional support including financial, corporate governance and translation services.

He has been a prolific supporter of fundraising activities which have helped to build residential aged care facilities catering for CALD communities.

Senior Volunteer of the Year – Norman Nolan from Bilgola Beach
At 80 years of age, Norm has been a dedicated figure in the Street Walk program for the past decade. The Youth off the Streets program provides support for homeless and vulnerable young people in the Sydney CBD and Inner West areas.

Volunteers work from 7pm to midnight four nights a week, providing meals and a trusted night time presence for young people who are at risk of harm.

Volunteer Team of the Year – One Meal Northern Beaches Co-op volunteers
The 180 volunteer team members at One Meal Northern Beaches Co-Op provide healthy, fresh cooked meals and food to over 1,500 homeless, vulnerable, and at-risk people across the Northern Beaches each week.

The vital community service was established in 2019 and now delivers the equivalent of 6,000 meals per week via 16 community organisation referrals. One Meal also provides breakfast packs and meals to over 80 disadvantaged students referred by school and community organisations each month.

Regional finalists for the awards are announced at 25 ceremonies throughout NSW and are invited to the Gala State Ceremony for the announcement of the 2022 NSW Volunteer of the Year.

2022 winners and presenters. Photo: The Centre for Volunteering

Giving Older Australians The Option To Work And Earn More

September 2, 2022
By Prime Minister, Minister for Social Services
Age and Veterans Pensioners will be able to earn an additional $4000 over this financial year without losing any of their pension due to the Albanese Labor Government providing a one-off income credit designed to give older Australians the option to work and keep more of their money.

Following the successful Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra, an immediate $4000 income credit will be added to the income banks of Age Pensioners from December to be used this financial year.

The temporary income bank top up will increase the amount pensioners can earn from $7800 to $11,800 this year, before their pension is reduced.

The measure is designed to enable pensioners who want to work to immediately boost the supply of labour to help meet shortages.

Pensioners will be able to do so without losing their pension, either in short stints or over the course of a year.

The $4000 temporary credit will be available until June 30, 2023, subject to the passage of legislation.

The Government will also look to strengthen legislation to ensure pensioners who are working don’t get unnecessarily kicked out of the social security system.

The Government will expedite legislation to ensure pensioners don’t have to reapply for payments for up to two years if their employment income exceeds the income limit. Currently their connection to social security is cancelled after 12 weeks of exceeding the income limit.

Pensioners will also retain access to their Pensioner Concession Card and associated benefits for two years.

These changes will give older Australians the option to take up work if they wish to do so.

This is an important measure to ensure older Australians have the option to remain in the workforce if they wish to without losing access to their pension and benefits.

It will mean if they wish to work for short periods of time they can also, broadening their choices.

Long COVID: How researchers are zeroing in on the self-targeted immune attacks that may lurk behind it

Approximately 30% of people who get COVID-19 develop long-term symptoms, or long COVID-19. Boy Anupong/Moment via Getty Images
Matthew WoodruffEmory University

For almost three years, scientists have raced to understand the immune responses in patients who develop severe COVID-19, with an enormous effort aimed at defining where healthy immunity ends and destructive immunity begins.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, much attention focused on reports of harmful inflammation and so-called cytokine storms – dangerous immune overreactions that can lead to tissue damage and death – in patients with severe COVID-19. It wasn’t long before researchers began to identify antibodies that target the patient’s own body rather than attacking SARS-CoV-2, the virus the causes COVID-19.

Those studies revealed that patients with severe COVID-19 share some of the key traits of chronic autoimmune diseases – diseases in which the patient’s immune systems chronically attack their own tissues. Scientists have long suspected and sometimes even documented links between viral infection and chronic autoimmune diseases, but the research remains murky. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity to better understand potential connections between these conditions.

As an immunologist and member of an interdisciplinary team of physicians and scientists investigating the intersection between COVID-19 and autoimmunity, I have been working to understand the origins of these untamed antibody responses and their long-term effects. Led by Ignacio Sanz, a specialist in investigating the immune dysfunctions that underlie autoimmune diseases like lupus, our group has long suspected that these misdirected immune responses may follow patients well after recovery and could even contribute to the debilitating set of symptoms commonly referred to as “long COVID-19.”

Our new study, published in the journal Nature, helps shed light on these questions. We now know that in patients with severe COVID-19, many of the developing antibodies responsible for neutralizing the viral threat are simultaneously targeting their own organs and tissues. We also show that self-directed antibodies can persist for months or even years in those suffering from long COVID-19.

As researchers like us continue to study COVID-19, our understanding of the link between antiviral immunity and chronic autoimmune disease is rapidly evolving.

More than three years into the pandemic, there is not one unifying explanation for why people experience the symptoms known as long COVID-19.

The Immune System Makes Mistakes When Under Duress

It’s easy to assume that your immune system is laser-focused on identifying and destroying foreign invaders, but that isn’t the case – at least under some circumstances. Your immune system, even in its healthy state, contains a contingent of cells that are fully capable of targeting and destroying your own cells and tissues.

To prevent self-destruction, the immune system relies on an intricate series of fail-safes that are collectively termed self-tolerance to identify and eliminate potentially traitorous immune cells. One of the most important steps in this process occurs as the immune system builds up its arsenal against a potential threat.

When your immune system first encounters a pathogen or even a perceived threat – such as a vaccine that resembles a virus – it rapidly recruits “B” cells that have the potential to become antibody-producers. Then, any of these “naive” B cell recruits – naive being a technical term used in immunology – that demonstrate an ability to competently attack the invader are put into a boot camp of sorts.

Here, the cells are trained to better recognize and combat the threat. The training period is intense and mistakes are not tolerated; B cells with any discernible potential for misdirected attacks against their host are killed. However, like any training process, this buildup and mobilization takes time – typically a week or two.

So, what happens when the threat is more immediate – when someone is quite literally fighting for their life in an intensive care unit?

Researchers now know that under the stress of severe viral infection with SARS-CoV-2, that training process collapses. Instead, it is replaced by an emergency response in which new recruits with little training are rushed into battle.

Friendly fire is the unfortunate result.

High-Risk Immune Responses Are Mostly Transient

Our team’s new work reveals that in the heat of battle with severe COVID-19, the same antibodies responsible for fighting the virus are uncomfortably prone to targeting a patient’s own tissue. Importantly, this effect seems mostly restricted to severe disease. We identified the cells that produce these rogue antibodies much less frequently in patients with mild forms of the illness whose immune responses were more measured.

Three-dimensional illustration of a nerve cell being attacked by antibodies.
Researchers have discovered that the antibodies produced to fight the virus in severe COVID-19 can sometimes turn against the bodies own cells and tissues. via Getty Images Plus

So, does that mean that everyone who gets severe COVID-19 develops an autoimmune disorder?

Fortunately, no. By following patients after their infection has resolved, we have found that months later, most of the concerning indications of autoimmunity have subsided. And this makes sense. Though we are identifying this phenomenon in human COVID-19, researchers studying these emergency immune responses for more than a decade in mice have determined that they are mostly short-lived.

“Mostly” being the operative word.

Implications For Recovery From Long COVID-19

Although most people fully recover from their run-in with the virus, up to 30% have not returned to normal even three months after recovery. This has created a group of patients who are experiencing what is known as post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, or PASC – the technical terminology for long COVID-19.

With debilitating symptoms that can include the long-term loss of taste, smell or both, general fatigue, brain fog and a variety of other conditions, these patients have continued to suffer and are rightfully looking for answers.

An obvious question for researchers who are studying these patients is whether the same self-targeted antibodies that are emerging in severe COVID-19 are lingering in those who suffer from long COVID-19. They are. Our new study makes clear that newly developed self-antibodies can persist for months. What’s more, in work currently under development and not yet peer-reviewed, we find that these responses are not restricted to those recovering from severe illness, and are readily identifiable in a large subset of long COVID-19 patients who had recovered from more mild illness as well.

Just as it was in the race to better understand the causes of acute disease earlier in the pandemic, we researchers are now working to get a more complete understanding of the cells and antibodies directing this self-attack for months and years following the resolution of infection.

Are they directly contributing to the symptoms long COVID-19 sufferers are experiencing? If so, are there therapeutic interventions that could blunt or eliminate the threats they pose? Are long COVID-19 patients at increased risk for the development of true, chronic autoimmune diseases in the future? Or, is all of this just a red herring – a temporary quirk of the immune system that will resolve on its own?

Only time and continued work in this critical area will tell.The Conversation

Matthew Woodruff, Instructor of Human Immunology, Emory University

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

A fast fix for the jobs summit: let retirees work without docking their pension

Darryl GobbettUniversity of Adelaide and Michael O'NeilUniversity of Adelaide

This article is part of The Conversation’s series looking at Labor’s jobs summit. Read the other articles in the series here.

With historically low unemployment and “we’re hiring” signs all over the place, there’s an understandable push for more skilled migrants. There’s a session on it at the jobs summit on Friday morning.

But there’s a quicker fix: an untapped source of hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, who are already in the country, many of whom would like to work but would be penalised for it.

Age pensioners who earn more than a minimal amount from paid work (A$490 a fortnight for singles) lose 50 cents out of every extra dollar they earn in reduced pension payments.

It’s a powerful disincentive. $490 a fortnight is $245 per week: that’s about nine hours’ income for a worker on the minimum wage with a casual loading.

Relaxing the income test – or at least the test on income from work – would have benefits beyond helping to meet our immediate need for skills and experience.

Longer term, it would reduce the need for bureaucrats to compile lists of skill shortages and attempt to pick migrants with the right skills to fill those gaps.

It would also ease the pressure that higher migration puts on the housing market, putting upward pressure on prices.

Given the jobs summit is looking for solutions with widespread support, unlocking retirees’ skills would be a good place to start.

Few Pensioners Work

The idea is backed by small and big business lobby groups, as well as National Seniors Australia and key federal independent MPs.

As of March 2021, about 2.5 million people were receiving the age pension. Only 92,000 – just 3.6% of them – declared earnings from employment.

There are three main ways we could make it easier for pensioners to work:

  1. lift the income test threshold for how much can be earned from working

  2. cut the income test when the threshold is reached

  3. remove the income test entirely

The third option isn’t as radical as it seems. Several countries, including Britain and New Zealand, don’t apply an income test.

The simplest would be option 1, allowing age pensioners to earn (say) an additional $500 per fortnight, which would amount to $990 per fortnight, or $25,700 per annum.

Getting More Into Work Needn’t Cost Much

Our calculations suggest giving age pensioners who are currently working these hours the full pension would cost less than $442 million per year.

This cost would amount to 0.8% of the $54,153 million budgeted to be paid as support to seniors in 2022/23.

If more pensioners worked more hours, the cost would climb to $1,664 million, which is 3.1% of this year’s budgeted support for seniors.

The benefits would be substantial.

Each one percentage point increase in workforce participation of those 65 years and older would boost the Australian labour force by around 43,000.

Hundreds Of Thousands More Workers

As importantly, Australians aged 65 years and over are expected to be the fastest growing population group by 2030.

On current population projections, by then each one percentage point increase in labour force participation by this age group would amount to 54,000 people.

If the change boosted participation by several percentage points, it would produce hundreds of thousands more workers, all of them already locals and most already trained.

It looks to us to be an idea too good for the summit to pass up.The Conversation

Darryl Gobbett, Visiting Fellow, South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide and Michael O'Neil, Executive Director, SA Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide

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

Celebrities Combine Forces And Voices To Support People Impacted By Dementia + National Dementia Helpline Now 24/7

Celebrity supporters, Ambassadors, Patron Ita Buttrose AC OBE and a person living with dementia have combined forces and lent their voices to an audiobook version of Dementia Australia’s Dementia Guide.  

The Dementia Guide is the go-to online resource for any person impacted by any form of dementia, of any age, in any location across Australia,” Ms Buttrose said. 

“Speaking for the voices team, I know we have all been thrilled to contribute to The Dementia Guide Audiobook to increase the accessibility to vital information about dementia and the support available. 

“Each person who has shared their voice has had an experience of dementia in their family and we have done this to raise awareness and help others to know they are not alone and that there is support available.” 

Dementia Australia Ambassadors and voices Natarsha Belling, Stephanie Bendixsen, Takaya Honda, Mark Seymour, Denis Walter OAM, Pat Welsh and celebrity supporters Rhonda Burchmore OAM and Geraldine Hickey wholeheartedly echo Ita’s words and have enthusiastically backed the project. 

Not just for people living with dementia, The Dementia Guide is also for friends, families and carers, and talks to the impact dementia may have on a person, the treatment, support and services they may need, and how loved ones can provide support.  

Stephanie Bendixsen, video game critic and television presenter, said she added her voice to the audiobook as she sees the value in a more accessible resource for families, such as hers, who need to navigate life with dementia.  

“My mother passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2018, and we really knew so little about dementia when she was diagnosed,” Ms Bendixsen said.   

“This made it difficult to understand why certain things were happening with her behaviourally, and we struggled to understand what was truly going on inside her brain, how her physicality was affected and how best we could support her and my Dad, her main carer, as a family.  

“Resources like this are so very valuable, and their accessibility even more so. Even though I consider myself a big reader - finding the time to sit down and read a book can be tricky when you have a busy lifestyle. I switched to audiobooks years ago so that I can absorb books while I'm driving, walking the dog, doing chores - it's been life-changing. An easily accessible resource like this would have made a wonderful difference to me and my family when we were coming to terms with how Mum's - and our lives - would change.”   

The audiobook includes a welcome from Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM and a chapter recorded by Ann Pietsch, who is a Dementia Advocate and lives with dementia.  

“I was invited to read one of the chapters and I personally think that The Dementia Guide is a valuable resource, making it available as an audio book is a great idea as it will now be easily available to more people living with dementia, carers, and families and the wider public,” Mrs Pietsch said. 

Ann speaks to the value of The Dementia Guide in her own personal circumstances when she was first diagnosed with dementia.  

“I would have been able to effortlessly pass on the details of the audiobook to my children and family and friends, so they could learn about dementia and my specific dementia, and the issues I might face whilst living with dementia. Then in their own time they could have chosen to listen to reliable dementia information and used any of the resources.”  

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said The Dementia Guide Audiobook is an important addition to our suite of support services and resources ensuring more people are able to access the support they need at a time that suits them. 

“Dementia Australia exists to empower people living with dementia, their families and carers to understand dementia and to manage their diagnosis on their terms,” Ms McCabe said.  

“We are committed to increasing accessibility to our services and the National Dementia Helpline, 1800 100 500, operated by Dementia Australia, is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If someone has a diagnosis of dementia, or mild cognitive impairment, or is concerned about changes to their or a loved one’s cognition, Dementia Australia is here for them.  

“There is no reason too small, no issue too big and no time too late. This is a gamechanger because no one should have to face dementia alone at any time of day or night. 

“The National Dementia Helpline and The Dementia Guide are both invaluable and much-needed resources, especially as the number of people living with dementia is expected to grow from half a million Australians today, to more than one million by 2058.” 

Ms Bendixsen said sometimes there are scenarios that don't warrant an emergency or doctor response or there are moments when we need to reach out and feel we don’t want to burden others – through the night, the early morning, or times when family is busy or unavailable.  

“I think when carers or people living with dementia find themselves in a moment of panic, or indecision, or confusion - it's so hard to know where to turn first. A dementia diagnosis can be a frightening, lonely road for many people - and this Helpline will serve as a lantern in the fog. This Helpline is an invaluable resource and for many people even just knowing it is there will mean the world,” she said. 

Dementia Australia provides support and information to all Australians, of any age, impacted by all forms of dementia, including mild cognitive impairment, in any location across Australia. Ongoing support and information is available at every stage from pre, during and post-diagnosis. This includes support for people with concerns about changes in memory and thinking. 

The National Dementia Helpline, staffed by a highly-trained team, is a free 24/7 telephone service which provides information and support to people living with dementia, people concerned about changes to memory and thinking, people living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), family, friends and carers of people living with dementia and people who work in health and aged care.  

By contacting Dementia Australia, you will have access to timely, reliable and expert information, advice and a wide range of programs to support you and your family and friends to live well with dementia. The National Dementia Helpline 24/7 service is available by phone, email or through our online chat function. Listen to and download The Dementia Guide free at

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you. 

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit  

Summit Pensioner Income Credit A Good Start

September 2, 2022
National Seniors Australia has welcomed the announcement of a $4,000 income credit by the federal government at the end of the Jobs and Skills Summit, describing it as an important first step in addressing the jobs and skills shortages in the workforce.

It means pensioners are now able to go from earning $300 per fortnight under the current work bonus to now earning up to around $450 per fortnight.

However, Australia’s peak organisation for older Australians believes more should be done to simplify our complicated pension system.

National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke says one of the biggest disincentives for aged pensioners and veterans to get back into the workforce, is the onerous reporting of any income earned by aged pensioners to Centrelink and the fear of losing their pension if they get it wrong.

“We are very happy to see the Jobs and Skills Summit take seriously our campaign to let pensioners work as a means of addressing the jobs and skills shortage,” he said.

“However, this new ‘income credit’ still puts the onus on aged pensioners to report their income to Centrelink which is a major disincentive for pensioners to return to work.

“It’s akin to them being audited every fortnight,” Mr Henschke said.

“We are grateful that pensioners can earn more and hope pensioners will respond to this move. However, we will continue to work with the government, opposition and cross bench parties and MPs to further reform the pension system.”

Mr Henschke says the New Zealand system where pensioners can work as much as they want without losing their pension remains the benchmark.

“It speaks volumes that in New Zealand 25 per cent of people aged 65 and over are still engaged in work, while here in Australia it is just 15 per cent,” said Mr Henschke.

Men's Sheds Grants And Movember Improving Men's Health

The Australian Government is providing much needed funds to our men’s sheds.  
A total of $500,000 will be provided through the latest round of National Men’s Sheds Programme (NSDP) funding.  
Across Australia, 153 men’s sheds will receive up to $10,000. 
Funds will be used to buy computers, host health and wellbeing events, make shed improvements, or purchase tools to use in the shed.  
Men’s sheds seeking funding to purchase a defibrillator will also be able to apply at any time under a special category. 
The Government is also providing $400,000 over the next 18 months to charity organisation Movember to conduct a targeted review of health professional education on male health issues.  
Movember will lead a group of subject matter experts to identify gaps and improvement opportunities for the education of clinicians. This work will assist in removing barriers for men in accessing timely and appropriate health care. 
This work will assist in remove barriers for men in accessing timely and appropriate health care. 
Applications for the next round of NSDP open on Friday 19 August, with interested sheds encouraged to apply by Tuesday 27 September

Further information, including an application form for the next round, can be found here:
Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said;
“Men’s sheds across Australia create a place of belonging for over a thousand local communities.
“The Albanese Government is providing this funding to men’s sheds so they can continue their important work.  
“Movember is synonymous with highlighting men’s health issues. 
“The Movember review continues efforts to realise improved health outcomes for Australian males through the implementation of the National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030.” 

Can supplements or diet reduce symptoms of arthritis? Here’s what the evidence says

Clare CollinsUniversity of Newcastle

Arthritis is a disease that affects body joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, with more than 350 million people affected around the globe, including about four million Australians.

Arthritis causes pain and disability and commonly reduces quality of life. In Australia in 2015, about 54,000 people aged 45–64 couldn’t work due to severe arthritis. Their median income was only a quarter of the income of full-time workers who did not have arthritis.

So it is not surprising some people want to try different diets, supplements or therapies to see if they alleviate symptoms or help them gain a sense of control over their condition.

However, a major review found specific supplements or food components were unlikely to lead to significant improvements in arthritis outcomes such as stiffness, pain and function.

The main nutrition recommendation was to adopt healthy eating patterns.

Remind Me, What Causes Arthritis? And What Are The Symptoms?

Risk factors for developing arthritis include ones you can’t control – such as genetics, sex, and age – and some you may be able to, such as smoking, repetitive injuries, body weight, occupation and some infections.

Types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile arthritis, gout, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) and scleroderma.

Common symptoms include:

  • pain
  • stiffness or reduced joint movement
  • swelling, redness and warmth in the joints.

Less specific symptoms include tiredness, weight loss or feeling unwell.

So What Does The Evidence Say About Supplements?

The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology, the expert European group on arthritis, recently published a detailed critique on diet and supplement use in arthritis. It synthesised findings from 24 systematic reviews of existing research as well as an additional 150 extra studies, covering more than 80 different dietary components and supplements.

The alliance identified there were limited studies on each individual product with the majority of studies being of low quality. This means that for most supplements they couldn’t make recommendations about whether or not to use them.

Woman drinks water
Most research on supplements is of low quality. Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

However, for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, although most studies were of low or moderate quality, a few supplements had positive effects.

Vitamin D, chondroitin and glucosamine

For osteoarthritis, there was moderate-quality evidence supporting a small positive effect on pain and function for taking vitamin D, chondroitin and glucosamine (both compounds found in cartilage) supplements.

Here, moderate quality means although the studies had some limitations and their results should be interpreted with caution, they can be used to guide recommendations.

This suggests people could choose to try these common supplements for a few months and see whether they get any benefit, but stop taking them if there is no improvement in their symptoms.

Fish oil

For rheumatoid arthritis, there was moderate quality evidence for a small positive effect on pain for omega-3 (fish) oils.

Again, people could try these supplements for a few months and see whether they get any benefit, but stop taking them if there is no improvement.

Other supplements

For all other arthritis categories, and other specific dietary components or supplements, the evidence was rated as low to very low (see tables 1–5 in this link).

This means any improvements in arthritis outcomes could be due to chance or bias, with positive results more likely to be published, or potential bias occurring when a trial was sponsored by a supplement manufacturer.

What Does It All Mean?

Current research indicates it’s unlikely specific foods, supplements or dietary components affect arthritis outcomes to a large degree.

However, given the higher risk for heart disease associated with arthritis, the recommendation is to have a healthy diet and lifestyle in order to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

So how do you improve your health and wellbeing? Here are five key things to consider:

1. Eat A Healthy, Varied Diet

Bowl of vegetables and eggs
Prioritise eating healthy food, rather than taking supplements. Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Eating food – rather than taking supplements – means you get the other nutrients that foods contain, including healthy sources of fat, protein, dietary fibre and a range of vitamin and minerals essential to maintain a healthy body.

This is why the recommendation for people with arthritis is to eat a healthy diet, because vegetables, fruit, legumes and wholegrains contain a range of phytonutrients needed to help dampen down oxidative stress triggered by inflammatory processes associated with arthritis.

A healthy diet includes foods rich in omega-3 fats such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), chia seeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, and vitamin D (eggs, fish, and milk or margarine fortified with vitamin D). And don’t forget sun exposure, which allows the body to produce vitamin D.

2. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol intake should be discussed with your doctor as it can interact with other treatments.

Small amounts of alcohol are unlikely to have negative impacts on arthritis, unless you have other health issues like liver disease or you take certain medications such as methotrexate or leflunomide.

For rheumatoid arthritis, moderate alcohol consumption could increase the risk of arthritis flare ups.

Alcohol can also increase the risk of gout flare ups.

3. Aim For A Healthy Weight

Aiming for a healthy weight can help arthritis by reducing the load on affected joints such as hips and knees, and by boosting your intake of healthy foods rich in phytonutrients.

Ask your doctor for support to achieve well managed, intentional weight loss if you’re carrying excess weight. You may need referral to an accredited practising dietitian for personalised medical nutrition therapy or to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for specific help to improve mobility and physical activity.

Older person walks in the bush
Achieving a healthy weight reduces the load on joints. Olia Gozha/Unsplash

4. Be Cautious With Supplements

If you decide to try specific complimentary therapies or dietary supplements, discuss potential side-effects or interactions with your regular medicines with your doctor and pharmacist.

Try the products for a few months (or as long as one container lasts) so you can monitor any side-effects versus your sense of wellbeing, reduction in use of pain medications and the cost. If you’re not getting any benefit then spend that money on more healthy foods instead.

Find out how healthy your diet is by taking our free Healthy Eating Quiz.The Conversation

Clare Collins, Laureate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle

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

Dementia Action Week
19 – 25 September 2022

Dementia impacts close to half a million Australians and almost 1.6 million Australians are involved in their care. The number of people living with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years. With so many people impacted now and into the future, it is vital we clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about dementia.

People living with dementia can live active and fulfilling lives many years after diagnosis. Despite this, they often experience discrimination. In a Dementia Australia survey, more than 70 per cent of people believed discrimination towards people with dementia is common or very common.

The concept for Dementia Action Week was developed in consultation with Dementia Advocates, who have a lived experience of dementia. The ‘A little support makes a big difference’ campaign demonstrates that many people living with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their diagnosis. In 2021, the focus was also on supporting and celebrating carers of people living with dementia.

The campaign provides information and tips to encourage all Australians to increase their understanding of dementia and learn how they can make a difference to the lives of people around them who are impacted – and to help eliminate discrimination. These include simple and practical tips to:
  • Give a little support to a person living with dementia.
  • Give a little support to a carer, friend or family member of a person living with dementia.
  • Help healthcare professionals make their practice more dementia-friendly.
This awareness-raising campaign continues to lead the discussion about discrimination, which we know has a big impact on people living with dementia, their families and carers. The good news is, there is a lot that can be done to improve their experiences. To find out how you can make a difference please visit our campaign site by clicking the link below:

We encourage community organisations, partners and supporters  to register your interest to receive further information about Dementia Action Week 2022, discrimination and dementia.

2022 Australian Museum Eureka Entry On Crayweed For Sleek Geeks Highly Commended 

A microscope slide that can diagnose cancer, mapping how what we eat affects the environment, and a volunteer effort tracking bushfire damage. These were just a few of the scientific projects recognised at the 2022 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, announced in Sydney this week.

The prizes have been awarded each year since 1990 to recognise contributions to science and the public understanding of science.

Sponsored by the University of Sydney, the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize encourages students to explore a scientific concept, discovery or invention, or test their own scientific hypothesis in a short film. Students can work individually or in teams of up to six people, and there is a prize pool of $10,000 to be shared between the winners and their schools.

The 2022 theme was 'Change'.

In late July 2022 the Finalists were announced and among these were the lists of Sleek Geeks Science Highly Commended - Secondary School with Crayweed Restoration, Talia S., Pittwater House, NSW being named.

The full list of 2022 Australian Museum Eureka Prize winners runs below but here is a great insight into a local project.

Congratulations Talia - this year's entries took hundreds of hours to go through, so to be Highly Commended is no small thing!

HSC Online Help Guides

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

Stay Healthy - Stay Active: HSC 2022

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

Radio Northern Beaches Offers Free Broadcast Training: 14 Spots

Radio Northern Beaches is offering a free broadcast training course to local people who are facing financial or disability challenges. The training course begins with a one-day workshop on Saturday 10th September at the Terrey Hills studio followed by weekly evening sessions.

It is aimed at adults on the Northern Beaches who are interested in broadcasting and who wish to be part of a community-orientated volunteer organisation.

Andrew Goodman-Jones, Chair of Radio Northern Beaches, said, “We hope to attract people who would like to join us, but are put off by the cost of training and membership, particularly young adults and seniors on low incomes, people with disabilities, and others for whom the cost is a deterrent.”

The course, which is funded by a Government grant, can accommodate up to fourteen people. The normal cost of training and annual membership of Radio Northern Beaches is $300.

Application forms must be received by 7th September. They can be downloaded at
For more information, call Andrew Goodman-Jones on 9451 4887.

About the workshop:
The Radio skills Workshop is a fun and engaging introduction to a wide range of radio broadcasting skills, presented by your local community radio station, Radio Northern Beaches. 

The radio course is aimed at people who are interested in potentially presenting their own weekly show at Radio Northern Beaches, people interested in broadcast media as a career, anyone interested in volunteering at Radio Northern Beaches, or anyone looking for a fun and challenging experience!

You will get to meet a few of RNB’s radio high profile presenters and learn tips and tricks first hand. Network with other aspiring radio presenters.

The day is an excellent first step into the world of radio.

Topics include:
  • • Introduction to radio
  • • Interviewing techniques
  • • Preparing a program 
  • • Microphone technique
  • • Media Law  
  • • Technical operation (introduction to studio operation, recording, mixing, editing)
  • • The day culminates in a live to air broadcast
The one-day workshop is suited to people wanting to present their own program or volunteering with Radio Northern Beaches. 

After the workshop, you are welcome to make a regular radio program or be involved in other aspects of the station. Training is provided 1 night a week for 4 weeks after the Radio Skills Workshop.

The workshop includes morning tea and lunch.

Applicants must be a citizen or permanent resident of Australia.

Applicants who live in Northern Beaches are given priority.

Applicants must be aged 15 and above at the time of the application. Participants aged under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Applicants  must have medium to expert proficiency in English as the workshop is delivered in English. People who speak English as second language are welcomed to apply.

75th Anniversary Coin

On 1 September 2022, the Royal Australian Mint released a limited edition 50 cent commemorative coin to celebrate the Australian Signals Directorate's (ASD) 75th anniversary. Fifty thousand coins will be produced and available for purchase by coin collectors and the Australian public.

The 50 cent coin marks 75 years of ASD, reflecting on their mission defending Australia from global threats. It commemorates the ASD's historical roots in World War II, harnessing and mastering technology to reveal foreign secrets and protect Australia’s own.


In tribute to the importance of code breaking and evolution of signals intelligence, multiple layers of cryptographic code have been included in the design of the coin. ASD cryptographic experts collaborated with the Royal Australian Mint to design the coins unique and enigmatic code. 

A hidden message will be revealed once each layer of code has been cracked. All that is needed is a pen, paper, Wikipedia and brainpower. If you think you can decipher their coded messages, contact them and submit your answers. They will reveal whether your answers are correct at the end of September 2022.

ASD would like to thank the Royal Australian Mint for collaborating with them in celebration of their 75th anniversary.

Coins will be available for purchase from September 1st. If you would like to purchase a coin, you can visit the Royal Australian Mint’s eShop website.

Be The Boss: I Want To Be An Automotive Mechanic

If you have always loved tinkering with vehicles then becoming a Mechanic may be the perfect job-for-life for you. Although you will have to do an Apprenticeship, once you have completed that you will be able to work in the motor vehicle and associated industries, while this is, once again, work where you will have a certain degree of autonomy, whether you set up in business as a sole trader or even when working for someone else.

A Mechanic is a tradesperson who uses tools to build and repair machinery. Most Mechanics specialise in a particular field, such as motor mechanics, air-conditioning and refrigeration, or bicycle mechanics.
For the purposes of this week's 'I want to be the Boss' we focus on Automotive Mechanics.

Automobile mechanics at work, USA, 1910s

Automotive Mechanics (also known as Auto Mechanics) are qualified to maintain, test and repair petrol engines and the mechanical parts of motor vehicles. This may include identifying faults and ensuring the smooth function of transmissions, suspension, steering and brakes.

To become an Automotive Mechanic you need to complete an apprenticeship and some formal training. If you want to specialise in automotive air-conditioning or be certified to give roadworthy assessments you’ll require additional licensing and need to complete further study.

When looking to start your apprenticeship, an Apprenticeship Network provider or Group Training Organisation in your area can help you find a host employer. Or get out there and ASK - there are plenty of local businesses looking for someone to start a Mechanic apprenticeship - or use a search function platform such as Indeed or Seek to find one in your area.

While completing your apprenticeship, there are a number of formal training options to supplement your on-the-job training. The Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology (AUR30616) has a particular focus on light vehicles.

In order to give roadworthy assessments you need to function as a Licenced Vehicle Tester (LVT), which requires you to complete further accredited training.

TAFE Automotive Repair and Maintenance courses will set you up for a wide range of careers, from painting, repairs or motor mechanics with any automotive organisation. TAFE specialist facilities, industry events and relationships, and courses for everyone from high school students to tradespeople, put you in pole position in this area of skills shortage. TAFE automotive courses equip you with the practical and theoretical knowledge you need to become qualified as a car mechanic, motor mechanic, or automotive specialist.

You’ll learn mechanical and electrical fundamentals including servicing, diagnostic and repairs on things like the engine, steering, suspension, driveline, brakes, body control and vehicle communication systems.

You’ll also use your communication skills and attention to detail to learn how to successfully run your own business and create safe work environments in the automotive industry.

Cars, trucks, and agricultural machinery are the backbone of Australia, with 19.5 million vehicles being registered at the beginning on 2019. Evolving industries, sustainable environmental standards and automotive technology advancements mean that you need to be skilled to meet what the future has in store with 23,000 job openings until 2024. There’s no better time to get into gear with a TAFE NSW automotive qualification.

Whether you want to restore a vintage vehicle, work on modern SUVs or get out in the agriculture field, there are many exciting opportunities in the automotive industry, including:
  • Automotive electrician
  • Automotive mechanic
  • Automotive salesperson
  • Car mechanic
  • Heavy vehicle mechanic
  • Light vehicle mechanic
  • Marine trimming technician
  • Mobile plant mechanic
  • Motorcycle mechanic
  • Vehicle refinishing technician
  • Vehicle spray painter
Start with a foundational Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation, kick-start your career as a qualified car mechanic with a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology, and then rev it up with a Certificate IV in Automotive Mechanical Diagnosis.

In Australia, the average weekly salary for a motor mechanic is $1,436 per week. Requirements of a mechanic include the completion of an apprenticeship and relevant qualifications, such as the Certificate II in Automotive Body Repair Technology, or the Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology.

TAFE NSW courses in this area are offered in various specialties, such as:
  • Automotive Body Repair Technology
  • Automotive Servicing Technology 
  • Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology
  • Automotive Electrical Technology, Engineering (Mechanical)
  • Mobile Plant Technology
  • Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology

Information courtesy Australian Government Apprenticeships Guide (Your Career), TAFE NSW, Australian Open Colleges,  Australian Careers HQ and The Good Universities Guide, Australia.

Also Available:

More Opportunities To Get Skilled For Free

NSW residents who want to get skilled for a first job, a new job or a better job will have more opportunities to access fee-free training, with the NSW Government extending funding through to the end of the 2022-23 financial year.

The joint NSW - Federal Government funded JobTrainer program, providing fee-free training in response to the impact of COVID-19, is due to end in December, but the NSW Government will step in to ensure more people can access training so they can get jobs in priority industries.

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens announced the funding extension to mark the commencement of National Skills Week, which will remove barriers to training and help people get the skills they need for the jobs they want.

“We want people to get skilled, find in-demand jobs, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future for their families,” Mr Henskens said.

“When it comes to investing in skills and training, NSW has led the nation. Despite the Commonwealth’s funding for fee-free training ceasing at the end of this year, the NSW Government will extend funding for fee-free courses through to July 2023.

“The funding will target the in-demand industries such as community services, including aged care and disability support, hospitality, agriculture and digital technology.

“On top of our unprecedented investment in fee-free training, the NSW Government is also delivering revolutionary new programs and projects, such as our Institutes of Applied Technology and the New Education Training Model.”

Business NSW CEO Daniel Hunter welcomed the investment which will help train more workers for jobs in critical industries.

“The number one issue facing businesses right now is access to skilled workers. Every person that gets skilled up and into a job under this program is a success story for local communities and businesses across NSW,” Mr Hunter said.

For more information on eligibility and locations of the fee-free training courses across NSW including online, visit this website.

Girls In Engineering Club

The UNSW Girls in Engineering Club is a fun, inspiring community for high school girls interested in a career in engineering.
We provide opportunities to explore the diverse fields of engineering where you can connect and share ideas with fellow high school girls. You’ll hear from inspiring role models such as UNSW Engineering students and female engineers who are already making their mark on the world.

Join the club
The Girls in Engineering Club is free to join – sign up today to receive our monthly newsletters packed with inspiring content and activities!

GIE Club members get…
  • Exclusive invitations to Girls in Engineering Club events​.
  • Monthly inspo delivered to your email, featuring profiles of female engineers, study tips and more!​
  • Opportunities to be mentored by female engineering students. ​
  • Access to a closed Facebook community to connect with likeminded girls​.
  • Regular workshops and challenges.

Power-Sharing For Nature-Based Solutions To Climate Change : Fiona Nunan At TEDxWarwick

Published by TEDx Talks September 1, 2022
Professor Fiona Nunan explains why we need to put people at the centre of nature-based solutions rather than let private companies be in change - which often leads to fake action such as 'greenwashing'. Instead, she demonstrates why people living in or close to ecosystems are best able to protect, restore and manage nature. The importance of nature is often overlooked and so is the vital role of indigenous people for the future of our planet. Dr Fiona Nunan is a Professor of Environment and Development at the University of Birmingham. Her interests and experience focus on natural resource governance and management in developing country settings, particularly within inland fisheries and coastal locations in East and Southern Africa, and on exploring the links between poverty and the environment. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Alternative Math: Short Film

A well meaning math teacher finds herself 'trumped' by a post-fact America... or does she?
Published in 2017 by Ideaman

Word Of The Week: Catapult

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


1 : an ancient military device for hurling missiles. 2 : a device for launching an airplane at flying speed (as from an aircraft carrier). 


1. to throw someone or something with great force. 2. to suddenly experience a particular state, such as being famous or infamous.

The word 'catapult' comes from the Latin 'catapulta', which in turn comes from the Greek Ancient Greek: (katapeltēs), itself from κατά (kata), "downwards" and (pallō), "to toss, to hurl". Catapults were invented by the ancient Greeks and in ancient India where they were used by the Magadhan Emperor Ajatashatru around the early to mid 5th century BC.

A catapult is a device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder or other propellants – particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. A catapult uses the sudden release of stored potential energy to propel its payload. Most convert tension or torsion energy that was more slowly and manually built up within the device before release, via springs, bows, twisted rope, elastic, or any of numerous other materials and mechanisms.

The earliest catapults date to at least the 7th century BC, with King Uzziah, of Judah, recorded as equipping the walls of Jerusalem with machines that shot great stones. In the 5th century BC the mangonel appeared in ancient China, a type of traction trebuchet and catapult. Early uses were also attributed to Ajatashatru of Magadha in his, 5th century BC, war against the Licchavis. Greek catapults were invented in the early 4th century BC, being attested by Diodorus Siculus as part of the equipment of a Greek army in 399 BC, and subsequently used at the siege of Motya in 397 BC.

Mongol warriors using trebuchet to besiege a city - 13th century.

Some Father's Day Music

Because we all Love our Dad; even when arguing with him, a few songs to make you think about dad this week! Just remember YOU are his Dream Come True!
And for those of you who like us, have lost their dads, treasure every memory and go spend a little time in his favourite places when you miss him too much, the Ed. xxx

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."--Mark Twain.

Father and Son - by Yusuf/Cat Stevens (with Lyrics)

Rod Stewart - Rhythm of My Heart

Mike + The Mechanics - The Living Years

Mapping food supply chains, nanotech cancer diagnosis, and tracking bushfire recovery winners at 2022 Eureka Prizes

Australian Museum
Michael LucyThe Conversation

A microscope slide that can diagnose cancer, mapping how what we eat affects the environment, and a volunteer effort tracking bushfire damage. These were just a few of the scientific projects recognised at the 2022 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, announced in Sydney.

The prizes have been awarded each year since 1990 to recognise contributions to science and the public understanding of science.

The NanoMslide will make it easier to diagnose cancer. Daniel Calleja

The ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology went to the NanoMslide team, comprising researchers from La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Their invention uses a special nanotechnology coating for microscope slides for quicker, cheaper cancer diagnosis.

Eric Chow, Christopher Fairley, Catriona Bradshaw, Jane Hocking, Deborah Williamson and Marcus Chen, from Monash University and the University of Melbourne, won the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research. Their work on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) uncovered the role of saliva in transmitting STIs and pioneered tailored antibiotic treatments.

Manfred Lenzen and team traced billions of food supply chains. Supplied

The Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research was awarded to Manfred Lenzen, David Raubenheimer, Arunima Malik, Mengyu Li and Navoda Liyana Pathirana from the University of Sydney, for their work on how what we eat affects the environment. They traced billions of supply chains that deliver food to consumers.

The Environment Recovery Project, run by UNSW and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, won the Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science. The project gathered 1,600 volunteers to survey the damage caused by the devastating bushfires of 2019–20 and gather data on how the environment is recovering.

Raina MacIntyre. Supplied

UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre was awarded the Department of Defence Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and Innovation for her “significant leadership role in the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic”. She has written a range of articles for The Conversation, including an early explainer on the novel coronavirus.

The UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research went to Justin Yerbury of the University of Wollongong. Since his diagnosis with motor neuron disease in 2016, he has made key discoveries about the molecular causes of the disease.

The Australian Museum Research Institute also awarded two medals. One went to Stephen Keable, a former manager of the Marine Invertebrates Collections at the Australian Museum, for his work on marine invertebrates. The second was awarded to Graham Durant, the recently retired director of Questacon, for his service to Australian science and science education.

Other winners included:

NSW Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research – Sustainable Farms, Australian National University

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher – Tess Reynolds, University of Sydney

Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science – Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW

Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism – Jackson Ryan, CNET

Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion – Kirsten Ellis, Monash University

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize — Primary – Genevieve S., Bucasia State School, Qld

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize — Secondary – Iestyn R., St John’s Anglican College, Forest Lake, Qld

Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science – Sumeet Walia, RMIT University

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers – Paul Wood, Monash UniversityThe Conversation

Michael Lucy, Deputy Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

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

Creative skills will be crucial to the future of work. They should take centre stage at the jobs summit

Esther AnatolitisRMIT University

This article is part of The Conversation’s series looking at Labor’s jobs summit. Read the other articles in the series here.

You’ve heard of the gig economy and the portfolio career. Now quite popular terms, they come from the ways artists work. Think musicians gigging across small bars and large arenas, visual artists with portfolios of work in print, in galleries and online, or actors engaged on a range of short-term projects across a given year.

Once celebrated for flexibility and personal choice, these terms are now synonymous with exploitative, casual and precarious employment, or working conditions lacking entitlements, such as superannuation and sick leave.

But there is much to be learnt from the creative industries when it comes to understanding the future of work.

“Creativity” has been identified by the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund and global business analysts as the key to our future economies.

It was the number-one skillset demanded two years in a row by the 20 million job ads on LinkedIn, which labelled it “the most important skill in the world”.

Creativity is complex. It’s not straightforward to teach and it’s not straightforward to understand. That’s what’s so exciting about it.

Learning Creativity

“Innovation”, “disruption” and “agile thinking” are frequently touted as necessary for productivity and economic growth.

Often overlooked by political and business leaders, however, is none of these innovations can be generated without a creative approach.

Developing creative skills requires a sophisticated approach to education and training. You don’t learn critical thinking, ideas generation and problem-solving by rote.

That kind of learning comes from art schools, design studios and humanities degrees. This is education that asks questions, delves deeply and takes time.

Group on laptops
Creative minds are needed in all types of professions. Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Policy priorities across the previous government’s nine-year term, such as excluding universities from pandemic supports and dramatic fee increases, resulted in the diminution or closure of art, design and humanities schools all over Australia.

For artists and arts educators, the outcomes have been devastating.

But it’s not just artists who are impacted by a collapse in creative education. In 2020, leading epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told 7:30 that “the capacity to envision” the pandemic’s consequences would be crucial to saving lives.

When asked why the world was so woefully unprepared for COVID-19, Osterholm declared decision-makers “lack creative imagination”.

The ways our imaginations are trained and supported are vital to the skills and jobs of the future – and indeed, to securing that very future itself.

Working Creatively

While more creative jobs and workplaces might be difficult to envision, the pandemic has already normalised the kinds of flexible working arrangements employers would previously have considered damaging to productivity or impossible to implement. Retaining that flexibility is now seen as crucial to retaining staff.

Care must be taken, however, to avoid the exploitative consequences of the gig economy and portfolio career. While it might once have been a bastion of freedom for an artist to have a wide-reaching and variable working life, we are now more aware than ever of how the gig economy can be synonymous with falling wages.

Questions of where and what hours we work are just the basics of workplace flexibility – and this flexibility shouldn’t be offered at the expense of other entitlements. Workers with multiple jobs generally aren’t entitled to the sick pay and leave provisions as someone working the same hours at just the one job. We need to move beyond those basics.

A woman plays a guitar
Gigs can be an important part of artistic freedom – but they can also be exploitative. Anton Mislawsky/Unsplash

We need to start taking more adventurous approaches to understanding what work is, what skills are prized and how those skills are developed.

If we don’t, innovation and productivity will continue to suffer, and the most creative employees will continue to frustrate employers by engaging in classic workplace activism such as the work-to-rule or go-slow protests glamorised today as “quiet quitting”.

Worse, we won’t have any means for unlocking unexpected solutions to the unexpected problems we continue to face.

Ours is an era of compound crises – climate change, fires and floods, housing affordability, cost of living, the rapid spread of disease – and we’re not going to get through these by doing what we’ve always done before.

The best way to secure the jobs and skills of the future is to understand how artists train, and invest in the most creative approaches to education and professional development across our working lifetimes.

This means an approach to education that exercises the hands and the body as well as the mind: making, testing, crafting, performing and experimenting.

Arts education balances theory and practice, invites students to be inventive and rewards risk-taking. It trains an artist’s entire body to think differently and prepare for any scenario. And in doing so, it promotes wellbeing, self-esteem and resilience.

A Creative Future

Arts Minister Tony Burke – also Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations – held two industry roundtables on Monday to hear from arts leaders who could not attend the jobs summit.

Now, the summit must consider how creative skills can be taught extensively and affordably in Australia – well beyond art, design and humanities programs.

Employers must be trained to recognise and value creative skills, and understand how best to deploy them.

And we need to ensure the working conditions of the future are fair and supportive for everyone.

Only the most creative approaches will secure that future.The Conversation

Esther Anatolitis, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Art, RMIT University

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

Five myths about Shakespeare’s contribution to the English language

Untitled design. Wikimedia
Jonathan CulpeperLancaster University and Mathew GillingsVienna University of Economics and Business

Shakespeare’s language is widely considered to represent the pinnacle of English. But that status is underpinned by multiple myths – ideas about language that have departed from reality (or what is even plausible). Those myths send us down rabbit holes and make us lose sight of what is truly impressive about Shakespeare – what he did with his words.

The Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s Language project at Lancaster University, deploying large-scale computer analyses, has been transforming what we know about Shakespeare’s language. Here, incorporating some of its findings, we revisit five things that you probably thought you knew about Shakespeare but are actually untrue.

1. Shakespeare Coined A Vast Number Of Words

Well, he did, but not as many as people think – even reputable sources assume more than 1,000. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust puts it at 1,700, but carefully add that this number concerns words whose earliest appearance is in Shakespeare’s works.

The word “hobnail” first appears in a text attributed to Shakespeare, but it’s difficult to imagine it arose from a creative poetic act. More likely, it was around in the spoken language of the time and Shakespeare’s use is the earliest recording of it. Estimates of just how many words Shakespeare supposedly coined do not usually distinguish between what was creatively coined by him and what was first recorded in a written document attributed to him.

Even if you don’t make that distinction and include all words that appear first in a work attributed to Shakespeare, whether coined or recorded, numbers are grossly inflated. Working with the literature and linguistics academics Jonathan Hope and Sam Hollands, we’ve been using computers to search millions of words in texts pre-dating Shakespeare. With this method, we have found that only around 500 words do seem to first appear in Shakespeare.

Of course, 500 is still huge and most writers neither coin a new word nor produce a first recording.

2. Shakespeare IS The English Language

The myth that Shakespeare coined loads of words has partly fuelled the myth that Shakespeare’s language constitutes one-quarter, a half or even all of the words of today’s English language.

A closeup on the spine of a book of the complete works of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s complete works could only ever have constituted a small proportion of the English Language. Jon Naustdalslid/Shutterstock

The number of different words in Shakespeare’s texts is around 21,000 words. Some of those words are repeated, which is how we get to the total number of around one million words in works attributed to Shakespeare. (To illustrate, the previous sentence contains 26 words in total, but “of”, “words” and “to” are repeated, so the number of different words is 22). The Oxford English Dictionary has around 600,000 different words in it, but many are obscure technical terms. So, let’s round down to 500,000.

Even if every word within Shakespeare had been coined by him (which is of course not the case, as noted above), that would still only be 4.2% of today’s English language. So, Shakespeare could only ever have contributed a very small fraction, though quite possibly more than most writers.

3. Shakespeare Had A Huge Vocabulary

Ludicrously, popular claims about Shakespeare’s huge vocabulary seem to be driven by the fact that his writings as a whole contain a large number of different words (as noted above, around 21,0000). But the more you write, the more opportunities you have to use more words that are different. This means Shakespeare is likely to come out on top of any speculations about vocabulary size simply because he has an exceptionally large surviving body of work.

A few researchers have used other methods to make better guesses (they are always guesses, as you can’t count the words in somebody’s mind). For example, Hugh Craig, a Shakespearean scholar who pioneered the use of computers, looked at the average number of different words used across samples of writings of the same length. He found that, relative to his contemporaries, the average frequency with which different words appear in Shakespeare’s work is distinctly … average.

4. Shakespeare Has Universal Meaning

Sure, some themes or aspects of the human condition are universal, but let’s not get carried away and say that his language is universal. The mantra of the historical linguist is that all language changes – and Shakespeare isn’t exempt.

Changes can be subtle and easily missed. Take the word “time” – surely a universal word denoting a universal concept? Well, no.

For each word in Shakespeare, we used computers to identify the other words they associate with, and those associations reveal the meanings of words.

“Time”, for instance, often occurs with “day” or “night” (for example, from Hamlet: “What art thou that usurp'st this time of night”). This reflects the understanding of time in the early modern world (roughly, 1450-1750), which was more closely linked to the cycles of the moon and sun, and thus the broader forces of the cosmos.

In contrast, today, associated words like “waste”, “consume” and “spend” suggest that time is more frequently thought of as a precious resource under human control.

5. Shakespeare Didn’t Know Much Latin

The myths above are popular myths, spread by academics and non-academics alike (which is why they are easy to find on the internet). Myths can be more restricted.

Within some theatrical circles, the idea that Shakespeare didn’t know much Latin emerged. Indeed, the contemporary playwright Ben Jonson famously wrote that Shakespeare had “small Latin, and less Greek”. Shakespeare lacked a university education. University-educated, jealous, snooty playwrights might have been keen to take him down a peg.

Working with the Latin scholar Caterina Guardamagna, we found that Shakespeare used 245 different Latin words, whereas in a matching set of plays by other playwrights there were just 28 – the opposite of what the myth dictates.

That Shakespeare used so much Latin without a university education makes his achievement in using it all the greater.The Conversation

Jonathan Culpeper, Chair professor in English Language and Linguistics, Lancaster University and Mathew Gillings, Assistant Professor, Vienna University of Economics and Business

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

A new discovery shows major flowering plants are 150 million years older than previously thought

Prof Shuo Wang/Shi et al., 2022Author provided
Byron LamontCurtin University

A major group of flowering plants that are still around today, emerged 150 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study published today in Trends in Plant Science. This means flowering plants were around some 50 million years before the dinosaurs.

The plants in question are known as the buckthorn family or Rhamnaceae, a group of trees, shrubs and vines found worldwide. The finding comes from subjecting data on 100-million-year old flowers to powerful molecular clock techniques – as a result, we now know Rhamnaceae arose more than 250 million years ago.

A Widespread Family

Today, the buckthorn family of shrubs is widespread throughout Africa, Australia, North and South America, Asia and Europe. The important fruit jujube or Chinese date belongs to the Rhamnaceae; other species are used in ornamental horticulture, as sources of medicine, timber and dyes, and to add nitrogen to the soil.

Flowering shoots of the shrub Phylica, now confined to South Africa, have recently been found in amber from Myanmar that is more than 100 million years old.

Close-up of a leafy green plants with brownish plum-shaped fruit
Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) belongs to the buckthorn family. Alex___photo/Shutterstock

Together with Tianhua He, a molecular geneticist at Murdoch University, we combined skills to show these new fossils of Phylica could be used to trace the Rhamnaceae family (to which Phylica belongs) back to its origin almost 260 million years ago.

We did this by comparing the DNA of living plants of Phylica against the rate of DNA change over the past 120 million years, to set the molecular clock for the rest of the family.

Close-up of a slightly fuzzy, spider-like flower head frozen in amber
This Phylica flower was trapped in tree sap along with some charcoal over 100 million years ago. Time has turned it to amber. Prof Shuo Wang/Shi et al. 2022Author provided

Older Than We Could Have Imagined

It was previously believed that Phylica evolved about 20 million years ago and Rhamnaceae about 100 million years ago, so these new dates are much older than botanists could possibly have imagined. Since Rhamnaceae is not even considered an old member of the flowering plants, this means flowering plants arose more than 300 million years ago – some 50 million years before the rise of the dinosaurs.

Close-up of a spiny plant with daisy-like flowers perched on each stem
Phylica pubescens, also known as featherhead. Molly NZ/Shutterstock

But how did Phylica get from the Cape of South Africa to Myanmar? Our data on the history of the plant’s evolution show the most likely path is that Phylica migrated to Madagascar, then to the far north of India (most of which is under the Himalayas now), all of which were joined 120 million years ago.

India then separated and drifted north until it collided with Asia. The far northeast section, known as the Burma tectonic plate, became Myanmar about 60 million years ago. Sap, possibly released by fire-injured conifers, flowed over the Phylica flowers and preserved them intact as amber while India was still attached to Madagascar.

Forged In Fires

In fact, the vegetation in which Rhamnaceae evolved was probably subjected to regular fires. The first clue was the charcoal researchers have found together with the Phylica fossils in the amber.

The second is that today, almost all living species in the Phylica subfamily have hard seeds that require fire to stimulate them to germinate.

I assessed the fire-related traits of as many living species as possible, then He traced them onto the evolutionary tree he had created, using a technique called ancestral trait assignment. This showed there was a strong possibility the earliest Rhamnaceae ancestor was fire-prone and produced hard seeds.

We have extensively studied the evolutionary fire history of banksias, which go back 65 million years, along with proteaspineswire rushes and the kangaroo paw family.

Our new results make the buckthorn family of plants by far the oldest to show fire-related traits of all the plants we have studied over the past 12 years.The Conversation

Byron Lamont, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Plant Ecology, Curtin University

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

What is brown noise? Can this latest TikTok trend really help you sleep?

Karolina Grabowska/PexelsCC BY-SA
Gemma PaechUniversity of Newcastle and Gorica MicicFlinders University

The latest TikTok trend has us listening to brown noise. According to TikTok, this has multiple benefits including helping you relax and quickly fall into a deep asleep.

Getting insufficient sleep, and insomnia are common. So it’s no wonder many people are looking for ways to improve their sleep.

But can brown noise help? If so, how? And what is brown noise anyway?

What Is Brown Noise? Is It Like White Noise?

Brown noise, the better-known white noise, and even pink noise are examples of sonic hues. These are “constant” noises with minimal sound variation – highs, lows and changing speeds – compared with sounds such as music or someone reading aloud.

What distinguishes brown noise from white or pink is the pitch (or frequency).

White noise describes sound spread evenly across frequencies. It includes low, mid-range and high frequencies, and sounds like radio static.

White noise sounds like radio static.

Pink noise has more low- and less high-frequency sound. It is lower and deeper than white noise, similar to steady rainfall.

Pink noise noise sounds like steady rainfall.

Brown noise contains lower frequencies than both white and pink noise. It sounds deeper, similar to a rushing river or rough surf.

Brown noise sounds like rough surf.

Why Does Noise Help Some People Sleep?

Some people are more sensitive to external stimuli than others. That includes human touch (such as hugs), strong smells, caffeine, bright lights, or noise.

So one person can find a sound soothing or relaxing while another finds it distracting and annoying.

Several theories may explain why some people perceive benefits from sonic hues.

1. Distraction and relaxation

Noise can redirect and distract you from excessive overthinking or worrying. Some research shows listening to music helps people to mentally relax, which may help sleep. However, if your thoughts are worrisome or strong, noise alone may not be enough to distract your busy mind.

2. Sound masking

Our brain continues to process external sounds when we sleep and loud noise can wake us. But masking, through constant background noise, “drowns out” isolated loud noise. In a quiet country town, the same car alarm or dog barking will sound much louder and may be more likely to wake us, than in a busy city centre.

3. Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning is a way of learning and can explain how we respond to noise during sleep. If noise is relaxing, then pairing noise with sleep may improve the person’s ability to fall and remain asleep. In this way, noise is a reinforced stimulus for good sleep. If noise is annoying then it will hinder sleep and be a reinforcing stimulus for interrupted sleep.

4. Auditory stimulation

Auditory stimulation is not specific to pink, white or brown noise. This involves low-frequency tones being played in an attempt to “boost” certain sleep stages (for instance, “deep” sleep), perhaps improving sleep quality.

So, Is TikTok Right? Does Brown Noise Work?

Researchers have not specifically examined the impact of brown noise on sleep. However, there is some limited science about the impact of white or pink noise.

Some studies suggest white and pink noise helps us fall asleep quicker and improves sleep quality, but the quality of science is low.

Auditory stimulation may improve memory in young healthy people. Auditory stimulation using pink noise may increase slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) in older people.

Few studies have directly examined how improved sleep using noise benefits daytime mood and functioning. Ultimately, these are the benefits most of us seek from a good night’s sleep.

When To Get Your Sleep Problems Checked Out

If you have persistent difficulty falling or remaining asleep, are waking too early, and are feeling unrefreshed during the day, your problems should be checked by a medical professional. Your GP can diagnose, provide treatment options and refer you for treatment if needed.

Relaxation and noise may improve your sleep. However, evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, delivered by a trained health expert, is generally required to address the cause of your sleep issues.

This therapy usually takes place with a psychologist, over four to five sessions. It involves addressing thoughts and behaviours around sleep, looks at why sleep problems may have developed, and how to improve them.

Treating sleep problems appropriately with evidence-based treatments and before they develop into a chronic issue – not relying on recommendations on TikTok – will ultimately lead to better sleep in the long term.

If you’re worried about your sleep, here are some great online resources and fact sheets from the Sleep Health Foundation.The Conversation

Gemma Paech, Conjoint Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle and Gorica Micic, Postdoctoral research fellow, Flinders University

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

Summit cheat sheet: what is productivity, and how well does it measure what we do?

Peter MartinCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is part of The Conversation’s series looking at Labor’s jobs summit. Read the other articles in the series here.

One word gets mentioned more than “jobs” and more than “skills” in the briefing paper for Thursday’s jobs and skills summit. It’s “productivity”.

Which is odd, because although many of us think we know what productivity is, and although many more assume productivity can be easily measured, it’s a surprisingly slippery concept.

In a report released earlier this month, the Productivity Commission (yes, we have an entire commission devoted to productivity) makes the idea sound simple.

It presents an equation:

productivity = output divided by input

The commission makes the reasonable point that producing more output (of anything – flowers, healthcare, food) per unit of input, so long as the quality is maintained, ought to be the goal of life.

Who wouldn’t want to clean a house in five hours instead of ten? Who wouldn’t want to manufacture a car in five hours instead of ten?

Who Wouldn’t Want More For Less?

You could use the freed-up time to kick back or make more of what you really want. And because you were producing more per hour worked, you would be in a good position to get a pay rise.

The commission is careful not to say you would get a pay rise. Instead it says that where there have been sustained pay rises above inflation, they have almost always been underpinned by increased productivity.

How much of the pay-off from an increase in output per hour worked goes to wages depends, among other things, on bargaining power.

Since 1990, the share of the spoils (technically, the share of total factor income) going to profits has climbed from 24% to 31%, while the share going to wages has fallen from 55% to 50%.

But it ought to be beyond doubt that the only guaranteed way to be able to lift living standards is to lift productivity. Beyond a certain point, working more hours won’t help, because, in the words of the commission, “there are only so many hours in the day to work”.

Nor will using more resources. They are finite. The only certain way to continue to get more of what we want is to get more from what we’ve got – which is the definition of productivity.

And just lately, productivity growth has slowed to a crawl, to what the briefing paper for the summit describes as the lowest rate in half a century.

Lifting Productivity Has Become Harder

It’s probably not because we’ve run out of ideas, although it might be because we used up a lot of good ones. Back when enterprise bargaining was introduced in the early 1990s, when we were asked to find improved ways of doing things at work in return for pay rises, we did it. But it became harder to keep finding gains as big.

More broadly, the extraordinary success of the productivity gains we made in manufacturing and agriculture have made them less important as employers. Now most of us (almost 90%) work in services. And services are hard to automate.

Worse still, it’s hard to tell what the output of many services is. There’s a reason the debate about the government’s commitment to defence is couched in terms of spending. It’s hard to tell what we get.

Productivity Has Become Harder To Measure

What about hairdressing? A hairdresser who trims twice as many heads per day isn’t necessarily twice as good, even if the quality of each trim remains the same. Part of a good hairdresser’s service is the quality of attention they offer each customer.

It’s the same for health care and education. That’s one of the reasons the Australian Bureau of Statistics doesn’t produce estimates of the productivity of the “health care and social assistance” or “education and training” industries, two of Australia’s biggest industries.

And many education and health services are provided free or subsidised, making the price charged an unhelpful measure of output.

(The bureau is planning to introduce “experimental” estimates of the productivity of the education industry next year, but it is finding it hard. It wants to define the output as the “organised communication of knowledge from teacher to student”, which gives an idea of how murky the whole idea is.)

Putting Quality Of Work And Life On The Summit’s Agenda

Economy-wide, the Productivity Commission relies on the bureau’s rough and ready measure: gross domestic product per hour worked, but it’s misleading for the same reason.

Labor came to office promising every Australian living in aged care would receive an average of 215 minutes of care per day.

When that happens, it will be a drag on measured productivity – on GDP per hour worked. Yet it will hugely improve the lives of Australians.

It makes sense for the summit to focus on productivity, given that measured productivity growth has slowed, but it should only be part of the conversation.

Other more personal things matter as well, among them the quality of our lives, the quality of our care, and the quality of our jobs – something those attending would be wise not to forget.The Conversation

Peter Martin, Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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

NASA is launching the 1st stage of the Artemis mission – here’s why humans are going back to the Moon

Artist’s concept of an Artemis astronaut picking up lunar dust. NASA's Advanced Concepts Laboratory
Gretchen BenedixCurtin University

With weather conditions currently at 80% favourable, NASA is launching the Artemis 1 mission today from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window opens at 8.33am EDT (10.33pm AEST).

This milestone mission will usher in a new era of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit, and the first step in getting humans back to the Moon.

The 42-day uncrewed mission will test the capabilities of the new heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, as well as the space readiness and safety of the Orion spacecraft. Orion is designed to send humans further into space than ever before.

In addition, Orion will launch ten small satellites called CubeSats for both scientific and commercial purposes.

These will be used to investigate different areas of the Moon, look at sustainability in the use of spacecraft, and even send one spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid. All these CubeSats have been built by industry (small and large) and/or scientific groups in the effort to expand space exploration.

NASA has already started the two-day countdown for Artemis I launch.

A Fitting Name For A Long-Awaited Step

A lunar deity, Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, and Apollo’s twin sister. It’s a fitting name for the program that will send the first woman and first person of colour to the Moon by 2030.

The Artemis program will build capacity in steps, similar to how the Apollo program worked in the 1960s. Each mission will build on the knowledge gained from the previous one to test equipment and instruments under controlled conditions, until finally, all is ready for a crewed landing on the Moon.

With the Artemis program, Earth as a global community has the opportunity to participate and push back the frontiers of human knowledge and innovation.

Humans were last on the Moon nearly 50 years ago, when the Apollo 17 astronauts spent 12 days roving and exploring an area known as the Taurus-Littrow Valley.

Since that time, most human exploration of space has been from the International Space Station, which orbits about 400km above the surface of Earth. For comparison, the Moon is around 950 times further (around 385,000km) away, representing a much more significant challenge.

Infographic on a blue background outlining the various stages of the Artemis one Moon Rocket
SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built. NASA image/Kevin O’Brien

As a global community, we have already learned much from using robotic missions to the Moon and other planets in our Solar System. The Moon has been imaged at a resolution of roughly 5 metres per pixel, therefore we can see and pick safer landing areas in heavily cratered areas like the south polar regions.

The Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission discovered water ice, and China’s Chang'e 5 mission recently brought samples back to Earth that come from the youngest known area of the Moon. We will apply this information to our next steps.

This Time, The ‘Space Race’ Is Different

The 20th century “space race” that drove humans to the Moon in the 1960s and ‘70s was fuelled by competition between the two global superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with the rest of the planet experiencing the excitement of visiting a world other than Earth.

Chinese officials recently announced an International Lunar Research Station jointly planned with Russia, a project that includes a new crew launch vehicle and the heavy lift rocket Long March 9, but details on this program are relatively scant for now.

While NASA leads the charge this time around, the Artemis program will be an international effort. It will take lessons from the success of the International Space Station, which was built by five, and has been used by astronauts from, 20 countries.

For this first Artemis mission, several European countries are involved in both the SLS and Orion. More (including Australia) will contribute to building and operating a base and rovers on the Moon in the future. Global collaboration is at the forefront of this effort.

The Benefit Is For All

Space exploration leads to new scientific discoveries, significant economic benefits, and inspiration for people to reach farther and higher. It is not just financial expenditure with no return – it earns back in spades and sometimes in ways we can’t predict.

The invention of cordless tools and velcro are often associated with NASA and space exploration; in reality, those were invented before the Apollo program (NASA did, however, make good use of them).

Although those weren’t invented because of space exploration, there are plenty of things that have been – from memory foam to suits for race car drivers, to cancer-sniffing instruments. A landing on the Moon also provided a unique view of Earth that showed our big blue marble in space. We are a connected community.

A complete view of Earth - a blue and green planet with swirls of clouds - on a black background
The Blue Marble is an iconic 1972 photograph taken during the Apollo 17 mission as the astronauts were travelling toward the Moon. NASA

We, the humans of this planet, need to go back to the Moon for many reasons, but the most important one is the challenge – to extend ourselves to innovate and progress.

The effort put into this will lead to new ways to look at and solve problems not only for living and working in Space, but for improving how we live and work on Earth.The Conversation

Gretchen Benedix, Professor, Curtin University

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

Can’t get your teen off the couch? High-intensity interval training might help

Adrian Swancar/Unsplash
David LubansUniversity of Newcastle and Angus LeahyUniversity of Newcastle

Many parents will understand the frustration of coming home from work to find their teens slumped on the couch with their eyes glued to their phones or the TV.

This is not unusual, and dozens of studies have shown physical activity levels decline during the teenage years. In Australia, less than 10% of older adolescents are getting enough physical activity.

Adolescence is also a time when there is a spike in mental health problems. It is a key period of human development characterised by rapid psychological and biological changes due to the onset of puberty and associated hormones.

During this time young people are developing a sense of identity and independence as they transition into adulthood and establish health-related behaviours. Introducing your teen to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one way to get them moving and feeling better.

What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?

High-intensity interval training is a time-efficient form of exercise that involves relatively short yet intense bouts of activity, combined with rest or low intensity activity.

The intensity of the exercise should be around seven to nine out of ten on a scale of perceived exertion.

What Are The Benefits?

In our recent study, we found two to three high-intensity interval training sessions per week, each lasting about eight minutes, improved students’ aerobic and muscular fitness over the six-month study period. The exercises included things like shuttle runs (running back and forth between two lines) and push-ups.

After the program, students who participated completed on average, four more laps on the shuttle run test, and had small increases in the number of push-ups completed. They also had reductions in the stress hormone cortisol, which we measured in their hair.

There is also emerging evidence that participating in high-intensity interval training can have short- and longer-term benefits for young people’s mental health and cognitive function.

Soccer ball on grass being kicked
Teens should be active in as many different ways as possible. RF studio/PexelsCC BY

We also conducted a review of studies on high intensity interval training and found participating in a single HIIT session can improve how young people feel.

There is emerging evidence participation in HIIT can improve children’s cognitive function. In this New Zealand study, children participated in video-based HIIT workouts five times a week over a six week period. Compared to a control group, the research team found significant improvements in cognitive control and working memory among children who participated in the HIIT sessions.

How To Get Started And Make It Enjoyable

1) Start simple: a good starting point is to do 30 seconds of exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. We have found this to be effective and enjoyable for teens in a number of studies

2) incorporate variety: we recommend teens complete a variety of aerobic activities (such as shuttle runs, running on the spot, or burpees), and resistance exercises (such as push-ups, squats, or lunges) designed to increase heart rate. And while high-intensity interval training can be done in the living room, changing the exercise setting can also help satisfy your teen’s need for variety. For example, doing a session on the stairs at the beach or park might be more motivating than doing the same session in the backyard

3) modify intensity: as teens improve their fitness, they can increase the duration of the work interval, decrease the rest interval, or increase the total number of intervals completed within a session to ensure they’re getting a good workout

4) make it enjoyable: playing music and exercising with friends and family are strategies that can make high-intensity interval training more enjoyable. Although most people do not feel great in the middle of an intense exercise interval, there is evidence they will feel good about 20 minutes after completing exercise. We’ve found participating in high-intensity interval training increases adolescents’ mood and vitality (energy and alertness). Reminding teens to think about how they’re feeling after participating in a training session helps them experience the psychological benefits

5) use technology: wearable technologies (such as activity trackers and heart rate monitors) can help increase engagement during exercise, as they can provide you with real time heart rate data to see how hard you’re working. While these can be expensive, lower-cost options are available. If you don’t want to design your own sessions, there are thousands of fitness apps and online training videos to choose from.

Teens may find gadgets such as fitness trackers improve their motivation. Pixabay/PexelsCC BY

Participate In A Variety Of Physical Activities

High-intensity interval training is a great way to get teens moving and interested in physical activity, but it shouldn’t be the only type of physical activity they undertake. Rather, it should be part of your teen’s physical activity smorgasbord which includes:

  • active transport (walking and cycling)

  • team and individual sports, such as swimming, football, netball, basketball

  • resistance training such as free weights, body weight exercises or exercises using elastic resistance bands to improve muscular fitness

  • other forms of recreational activity, such as dancing, surfing, skiing, and mountain biking.

If we want our teens to be active now and into the future, we need to provide them with the motivation, confidence and knowledge to engage in a wide variety of physical activities.The Conversation

David Lubans, Professor, University of Newcastle and Angus Leahy, Associate Lecturer, University of Newcastle

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

Why do people overshare online? 5 expert tips for avoiding social media scandal

Steve Gale / Unsplash
Van-Hau TrieuDeakin University and Vanessa CooperRMIT University

Social media are increasingly blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives, leaving us at risk of posting sensitive information that could have ramifications far beyond our “friends” list.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin recently found this out the hard way after a video of her dancing and drinking with friends, first posted to a private Instagram account, was leaked to the press. Marin was forced to apologise, and even volunteered for a drug test, after enduring a worldwide media storm.

Other kinds of oversharing can have consequences, too. In 2020, police in Australia shared photos of arrested ex-footballer Dani Laidley in a private WhatsApp group, and the photos were then made public. Thirteen officers were suspended or transferred, with some facing charges for privacy and human rights breaches.

Many employers are introducing policies to reduce this kind of risk. Our research shows what drives much online oversharing – and we can offer some tips to keep yourself clear of social media scandal.

The Personal And Professional Risks Of Oversharing

People have different preferences for boundaries between their professional and personal lives. Some prefer to keep their work relationships formal, while others treat colleagues as friends.

However, even if we choose to maintain strong boundaries between our professional and personal lives, we may still find details of our lives divulged on social media by others.

Research has reported more than half of us feel anxious about family, friends and colleagues sharing information, photos or videos we do not want to be shared publicly. Yet many of us also reveal an inappropriate amount of detail about our own lives (“oversharing”) on social media, and regret it later.

Beyond the potential for embarrassment, indiscriminate sharing on social media can have significant negative consequences for your professional life. Many employers actively use social media to research job candidates, while some employees have lost their jobs due to social media posts.

Emotions Drive Oversharing

Why are so many of us prone to oversharing? Our research suggests emotions are central.

When we feel strong emotions, we often use social media to communicate with and get support from friends, family and colleagues. We might share good news when we feel happy or excited, or anger and frustration might drive us to vent about our employers.

When emotional, it is easy for us to cross the boundary between work and social life, underestimating the consequences of social media posts that can quickly go viral.

We have five simple tips for people to avoid oversharing and creating a social media scandal for themselves or others.

1. Set Clear Boundaries Between Personal Life And Work

Be clear about the boundaries between your social life and work. Set rules, limits and acceptable behaviours to protect these boundaries.

Let your friends, colleagues and family know your expectations. If someone oversteps your boundaries, raise your concerns. Consider your relationship with individuals who do not respect your boundaries.

You can also establish boundaries by maintaining separate professional and social accounts on different social media platforms, and only sharing things relevant to work on your professional account.

2. Respect The Boundaries Of Others

Be aware of and respect the boundaries of others. Don’t share photos or videos of others without their permission.

If someone doesn’t want their photo to be taken, video to be recorded or their name to be tagged, respect their wishes. Treat others on social media the same way you would like to be treated.

3. Lock Down Your Social Media Accounts

Adjust your privacy settings to control who can view your profile and posts.

Most social media platforms provide features to help users protect their privacy online. Facebook’s “Privacy Checkup tool”, for example, lets you see what you’re sharing and with whom.

Also consider what information you place in your profile. If you don’t want your personal social media profile associated with your employer, do not list your employer in your profile.

4. Share Consciously To Avoid Mistakes

Do not use social media when you feel emotional. Especially if you are feeling strong emotions like hurt, anger or excitement, give yourself time to process your feelings before posting.

Ask yourself: How many people will see this post? Would anyone be hurt? Does anyone benefit? Would I feel comfortable if my colleagues or supervisors saw this?

Assume what you share can be seen by your friends, enemies, colleagues, boss and another 5,000 people. Stop if you don’t want any of them to see what you’re thinking about posting.

5. If You Do Overshare, Try To Remove Unwanted Content

Oversharing and accidental posting are not uncommon. If you have posted unwanted content, remove it immediately.

If you are concerned about information about yourself on someone else’s social media, raise your concerns and ask the person who posted to remove it.

If the information has spread through multiple sources, it is a bit tricky, but it is worth trying to contact the website or service that hosts the information or image to remove the content.

If you need further assistance with removing online content, you can also try a content removal service.

Posting Is Forever

Be aware that nothing shared over social media is private. Even “private” messages can easily be forwarded, screenshotted, posted and shared elsewhere.

You should treat social media content like your personal brand. If you wouldn’t say it to your colleagues and managers, don’t post it online.

Social media can enrich our professional and personal lives, but ill-considered posts and oversharing can be damaging to yourself and others. Being smart on social media is something we need to get better at in our professional lives, just as much as our personal lives.The Conversation

Van-Hau Trieu, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Deakin University and Vanessa Cooper, Professor, Information Systems, RMIT University

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

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Kept Alive Through New Language Exchange

A project celebrating Indigenous scientific knowledge that has added 2,500 native plant and animal names to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) was launched On September 1st at Ngukurr Primary School in South-East Arnhem Land.  

The ALA, hosted by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, worked with Yugul Mangi Rangers in South-East Arnhem Land and Macquarie University on the project, adding language words in eight local languages and descriptions for 295 species to the ALA. 

ALA Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) Program Lead Nat Raisbeck-Brown said the new Indigenous names and transcriptions would increase data accessibility and strengthen researchers’ and Australians’ connection to Traditional Owner knowledge and language. 

“This project is a wonderful celebration of Indigenous scientific knowledge, highlighting the importance of Australia’s first scientists in understanding biodiversity, and supporting biodiversity management and conservation efforts,” Ms Raisbeck-Brown said.  

“The newly updated species names are now searchable in the ALA, both by their Indigenous language name and western names (Latin and common). By having species names discoverable in Indigenous languages, we benefit from and encourage more Indigenous content to be contributed to the project," she said.

The project celebrates the Kriol, Marra, Ritharrηu/Wӓgliak, Ngandi, Wubuy, Ngalakgan, Alawa and Rembarrnga languages which are now included in the ALA. 

Yugul Mangi Assistant Ranger Coordinator Julie Roy, who speaks Ngalakgan and Ngandi languages, said the work not only offered shared scientific benefits but also helped support keeping local languages alive. 

“It was very interesting for me to learn both the scientific names and local language names for the species and it's also good for the kids to be able to search these species online to learn more about local languages,” Ms Roy said.  

In 2020, the Ngukurr Language Centre published this knowledge in a book titled The Cross-cultural guide to some animals and plants of South East Arnhem Land

Macquarie University project lead Emilie Ens said working with local communities reinforced the long-standing traditions and knowledge of First Nations Peoples in effective environmental management.  

“This knowledge, often encoded in language, is an important part of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage,” Ms Ens said.  

“By showcasing these names and knowledge in the ALA, we are recognising the deep traditions of Australia’s First Nations Peoples which is long overdue yet is increasingly seen as essential for effective management of Australia’s environments," she said.

The ALA’s IEK project is a collaborative effort with Traditional Owners across Australia to preserve and provide access to Indigenous cultural and environmental knowledge and language.  

The ALA, Australia’s national biodiversity data infrastructure, is funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and is hosted by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. 

Find out more about Indigenous ecological knowledge by visiting this website: 

Magpie Goose or Anseranas semipalmata, 'Langgurna' in Marra language, via iNaturalist. Credit: gillbsydney

The Tawny Frogmouth or Podargus strigoides, 'Aguluykuluy' in Ngandi language, via iNaturalist. Credit: Owen Gal

Yugul Mangi Ranger Simon Ponto holding a Lined Firetail Skink or Morethia ruficauda, 'Rlokrlok' in Ngalakgan language, on a fauna survey in 2014 at Mission Gorge, South-East Arnhem Land. Photo: Emilie Ens

Sugar Glider or Petaurus breviceps, 'Lambalk' in Rembrrnga language, via iNaturalist. Credit: Nimzee

Mulga Snake or Pseudechis australis, 'Bandiyan' in Kriol language, via iNaturalist. Credit: pratty90

Australian-First Cyber Centre To Safeguard NSW Police Network

August 29, 2022
A new $25.3 million Cyber Security Operations Centre will safeguard NSW Police Force systems from terrorists, organised criminal networks and hackers.

In a joint project led by the NSW Police Force and Cyber Security NSW, the Australian-first operations centre will be made up of a frontline tactical team of 15 analysts and engineers working seven days a week.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said the Cyber Security Operations Centre would strengthen the Force’s cyber security defences by identifying and blocking threats in real time.

“The NSW Police Force holds a significant amount of sensitive data relating to local, national and international criminal investigations, and we know there are criminals who want to get their hands on this information,” Mr Toole said.

“Analysts in the Cyber Security Operations Centre Command respond to and prevent threats of disruption to the police network every day.

“These threats often come from organised crime networks or cyber criminals – and our investment in this Australian-first operations centre is about ensuring our analysts are equipped to stop them in their tracks.

“By protecting police systems, we are fundamentally protecting the people of NSW by allowing the Force to function securely and effectively, and ensure criminal investigations proceed unthwarted.”

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said it was vital NSW continued to push ahead with its vision to be a world leader in cyber security to protect and advance its digital economy.

“Now more than ever before, governments, people and businesses are at risk from ongoing cyber security threats and Cyber Security NSW is committed to working with government agencies to improve cyber resilience and ensure they are prepared,” Mr Dominello said.

“We are committed to developing an Australian-based cyber security workforce that is world-leading when it comes to taking on increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks.”

Since June 2020 the NSW Government has invested $315 million through the Digital Restart Fund to bolster the Government’s cyber security capability and grow the local cyber industry.

Track Laying Complete On The Next Stage Of Sydney Metro

August 31, 2022
The final track has officially been laid on the NSW Government’s flagship public transport development, the Sydney Metro City and Southwest project.

Premier Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Transport, Veterans and Western Sydney David Elliott visited Martin Place Station today to inspect progress and secure the final piece of track into place, marking the completion of trackwork in the 15.5 kilometre twin tunnels between Chatswood and Sydenham.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the NSW Government was now one step closer to delivering another ground-breaking transport project that will better connect Sydney.

“This project will slash travel times for commuters and transform the way people travel across Sydney,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We’re delivering a world-class metro system that will not only benefit people who live in Sydney but also the millions of tourists who visit our city each year.

“Our Government’s multi-billion dollar investment in this revolutionary project will mean commuters have access to fast and reliable metro services and 7 new metro railway stations including beneath the CBD at Martin Place, Pitt Street Waterloo and Barangaroo.”

Minister for Transport, Veterans and Western Sydney David Elliott said the new metro railway line will have a target capacity of an incredible 40,000 customers per hour, similar to other metro systems worldwide.

“Sydney Metro trains will make history as we complete the first railway crossing deep below Sydney Harbour, with the trip between Victoria Cross in the city’s north to Barangaroo a fast three-minute journey.”

“It will be a real game-changer for commuters when turn-up-and-go services start running under Sydney Harbour and through the CBD, with services every four minutes in peak.

“Furthermore, this has been a boost for the economy and local jobs with more than 5,000 people currently working on the City and Southwest project; and close to 50,000 people by the time it is complete. Undoubtedly the benefits of this project will be felt for generations to come.”

In recent months, progress at Martin Place has seen all platform screen doors installed on station platforms and finishes are now underway.

A new 65-metre-long pedestrian link tunnel is also complete. It will provide the public with all-weather access to areas and alternative transport connections around the station and also link directly to Hunter Street and to the future Sydney Metro Hunter Street Station.

The two new commercial buildings at the station – a 39-storey building above the northern entrance to the station and a 28-storey office building above the southern entrance – are rising rapidly, reaching a new level every one to two weeks.

Connection of the new Sydney Metro City and Southwest Line with the existing Metro North West Line will occur later this year, ready for train testing to start along the new alignment in 2023 ahead of passenger services starting in 2024.

Eco-Glue Can Replace Harmful Adhesives In Wood Construction

August 31, 2022
Researchers at Aalto University have developed a bio-based adhesive that can replace formaldehyde-containing adhesives in wood construction. The main raw material in the new adhesive is lignin, a structural component of wood and a by-product of the pulp industry that is usually burned after wood is processed. As an alternative to formaldehyde, lignin offers a healthier and more carbon-friendly way to use wood in construction.

The carbon footprint of timber construction is significantly lower than concrete construction, and timber construction has often been viewed as better for the health of human occupants as well. However, wood panels still use adhesives made from fossil raw materials. They contain formaldehyde, which can be harmful to health, especially for those working in the adhesive manufacturing process. People living in or visiting buildings can also be exposed to toxic formaldehyde from wood panels.

Lignin, on the other hand, comes from wood itself. It binds cellulose and hemicellulose together and gives wood its tough, strong structure. Lignin accounts for about a quarter of the weight of wood and is produced in huge quantities in the pulp and bioprocessing industry. Only two to five percent of the lignin produced is used, and the rest is burned in factories for energy.

Previously, lengthy and chemical-intensive pre-treatments have been necessary to use lignin in formaldehyde-free adhesives. The adhesive developed by Aalto University researchers can use purified kraft lignin and the chemical reaction to make the adhesive takes a few minutes instead of up to 10 hours. No additional heating of the raw material is needed, which reduces energy consumption. The only by-products of the process are salt and sodium hydroxide, or lye.

Monika Österberg, professor at the Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering, stresses that this is an important development for both the environment and industry. 'Using lignin as a material can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase the processing value of forests. This is why research on lignin is an important priority for us at Aalto University.'

Doctoral researcher Alexander Henn explains that glued wood panels such as plywood and chipboard are increasingly used for walls, ceilings and flooring. 'Therefore, it is important to overcome the disadvantages of wood-based panel adhesives and develop the new innovation into a commercial product. This would enable a shift towards more wood-based construction, as a strong and heat-resistant adhesive made from natural materials makes construction truly ecological and safe.'

The innovation is a major step forward for the forestry and glue industries, as the lignin content of previous adhesives has been relatively low (around 20-50 percent), while the new Aalto University innovation has a lignin content of over 90 percent. The adhesive is strong and non-toxic, and protects surfaces from fire, so it can even be used as a flame retardant.

According to the researchers, lignin can also be used as a raw material for applications such as coatings and composites. Research work will continue in the laboratory, and various commercialization opportunities are likely to be explored in collaboration with LignoSphere Oy, a spin-off from Aalto University.

K. Alexander Henn, Susanna Forssell, Antti Pietiläinen, Nina Forsman, Ira Smal, Paula Nousiainen, Rahul Prasad Bangalore Ashok, Pekka Oinas, Monika Österberg. Interfacial catalysis and lignin nanoparticles for strong fire- and water-resistant composite adhesives. Green Chemistry, 2022; 24 (17): 6487 DOI: 10.1039/D2GC01637K

Positive Neighbour Involvement Important If Teens Don't Develop Mother-Child Bond

August 31, 2022
Teens who live in neighbourhoods with trusted, engaged adults can still develop critical social skills that were not nurtured early in life, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Previous studies have shown the importance of early mother-child bonding that contributes to teens having social skills, such as positive behaviours that optimise relationships with others, solid academic performance and self-management of emotions.

But what happens when that connection isn't formed? Social cohesion -- or the trust and bonds among neighbours -- can benefit the adolescents, researchers said.

The study focused on social skills among 15-year-olds as a function of early attachment between mothers -- also considered primary caregivers -- and their 3-year-old kids, as well as neighbourhood social cohesion.

Data from 1,883 children ages 1, 3 and 15 came from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a nationally representative study of children born in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000.

The present study asked 39 questions to determine the children's attachment, such as "is easily comforted by contact or interaction with mother when crying or otherwise distressed." A higher score indicated a greater level of security in the child's attachment with the mother.

To measure adolescent social skills, behaviour questions were asked of the 15-year-old participants. High scores in child attachment were positively correlated with increased adolescent social skills, the study showed.

At age 3, some of the traits reflecting closeness would be "hugs or cuddles with mother without being asked to do so," "responds positively to helpful hints from mother," and "when a mother says follow, child does so willingly."

High scores in neighbourhood social cohesion at age 3 were positively correlated with increased adolescent social skills. And when the bond between the mother-child wasn't strong, the impact neighbours had on kids' social skills was important, the research indicated.

"Children who live in neighbourhoods with a high degree of social cohesion may have more opportunities to engage within their community and interact with other trusted adults, as well as form friendships with children," said study lead author Sunghyun Hong, a doctoral student of social work and psychology.

These connections with other sources of support may be the driving force behind the buffering impact of social cohesion on social skills for children who had insecure attachments to their caregivers

"This underscores the value of children having access to supportive and loving relationships with the mother and the surrounding community, even from early childhood," Hong said.

The data was collected in the late 90s to early 20s, in which mothers were frequently the primary caregivers. However, in recent decades, the definition of primary caregivers has been expanding with families having diverse forms, including more fathers who are engaged in co-parenting and are the sole primary caregiver. Thus, if the research involved father, the study's results would be similar, Hong said.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, show that living in a neighbourhood with high social cohesion is as important as having high attachment security to the mother," she said.

"This means that when we think about policies and programs to empower our children in the community, we must consider directly supporting the family relations and investing in their surrounding community relations," Hong said.

The study's co-authors were U-M psychology graduate student Felicia Hardi and Kathryn Maguire-Jack, associate professor of social work.

Sunghyun Hong, Felicia Hardi, Kathryn Maguire-Jack. The moderating role of neighborhood social cohesion on the relationship between early mother-child attachment security and adolescent social skills: Brief report. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2022; 026540752211180 DOI: 10.1177/02654075221118096

Discovery And Naming Of Africa's Oldest Known Dinosaur

August 31, 2022
An international team of palaeontologists led by Virginia Tech has discovered and named a new, early dinosaur. The skeleton -- incredibly, mostly intact -- was first found by a graduate student in the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences and other palaeontologists over the course of two digs, in 2017 and 2019.

The findings of this new sauropodomorph -- a long-necked dinosaur -- newly named Mbiresaurus raathi were been published today in the journal Nature. The skeleton is, thus far, the oldest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Africa. The animal is estimated to have been 6 feet long with a long tail. It weighed anywhere from 20 to 65 pounds. The skeleton, missing only some of the hand and portions of the skull, was found in northern Zimbabwe.

Artistic reconstruction of Mbiresaurus raathi (in the foreground) with the rest of the Zimbabwean animal assemblage in the background. It includes two rhynchosaurs (at front right), an aetosaur (at left), and a herrerasaurid dinosaur chasing a cynodont (at back right). Illustration courtesy of Andrey Atuchin.

"The discovery of Mbiresaurus raathi fills in a critical geographic gap in the fossil record of the oldest dinosaurs and shows the power of hypothesis-driven fieldwork for testing predictions about the ancient past," said Christopher Griffin, who graduated in 2020 with a Ph.D. in geosciences from the Virginia Tech College of Science.

Griffin added, "These are Africa's oldest-known definitive dinosaurs, roughly equivalent in age to the oldest dinosaurs found anywhere in the world. The oldest known dinosaurs -- from roughly 230 million years ago, the Carnian Stage of the Late Triassic period -- are extremely rare and have been recovered from only a few places worldwide, mainly northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and India."

Sterling Nesbitt, associate professor of geosciences, also is an author on the study. "Early dinosaurs like Mbiresaurus raathi show that the early evolution of dinosaurs is still being written with each new find and the rise of dinosaurs was far more complicated than previously predicted," he said.

The international team at the heart of this discovery include palaeontologists from the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe, and Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Finding Mbiresaurus raathi and other fossils
Found alongside Mbiresaurus were an assortment of Carnian-aged fossils, including a herrerasaurid dinosaur, early mammal relatives such as cynodonts, armored crocodylian relatives such as aetosaurs, and, in Griffin's description, "bizarre, archaic reptiles" known as rhynchosaurs, again typically found in South America and India from this same time period.

(Mbiresaurus is derived from Shona and ancient Greek roots. "Mbire" is the name of the district where the animal was found and also is the name of an historic Shona dynasty that ruled the region. The name "raathi" is in honor of Michael Raath, a paleontologist who first reported fossils in northern Zimbabwe.)

From their findings, Mbiresaurus stood on two legs and its head was relatively small head like its dinosaur relatives. It sported small, serrated, triangle-shaped teeth, suggesting that it was an herbivore or potentially omnivore.

Part of the 2019 expedition team in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, before fieldwork. Left to right: Kudzie Madzana, Edward Mbambo, Sterling Nesbitt, George Malunga, Christopher Griffin, Darlington Munyikwa.

"We never expected to find such a complete and well-preserved dinosaur skeleton," said Griffin, now a post-doctorate researcher at Yale University. "When I found the femur of Mbiresaurus, I immediately recognized it as belonging to a dinosaur and I knew I was holding the oldest dinosaur ever found in Africa. When I kept digging and found the left hip bone right next to the left thigh bone, I had to stop and take a breath -- I knew that a lot of the skeleton was probably there, still articulated together in life position."

Nesbitt, who is a member of the Virginia Tech Global Change Center, part of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, added, "Chris did an outstanding job figuring out a place to test his ideas about early dinosaur evolution, went there, found incredible fossils, and put it all together in a fantastic collaboration that he initiated."

A theory on dinosaur dispersal
In addition to the discovery of Mbiresaurus, the group of researchers also have a new theory on dinosaur migration, including the when and where.

Africa, like all continents, was once part of the supercontinent called Pangea. The climate across Pangea is thought to have been divided into strong humid and arid latitudinal belts, with more temperate belts spanning higher latitudes and intense deserts across the lower tropics of Pangea. Scientists previously believed that these climate belts influenced and constrained animal distribution across Pangea, said Griffin.

"Because dinosaurs initially dispersed under this climatic pattern, the early dispersal of dinosaurs should therefore have been controlled by latitude," Griffin said. "The oldest dinosaurs are known from roughly the same ancient latitudes along the southern temperate climate belt what was at the time, approximately 50 degrees south."

Griffin and others from the Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group at Virginia Tech purposefully targeted northern Zimbabwe as the country fell along this same climate belt, bridging a geographic gap between southern Brazil and India during the Late Triassic Age.

More so, these earliest dinosaurs were restricted by climatic bands to southern Pangea, and only later in their history dispersed worldwide. To bolster this claim, the research team developed a novel data method of testing this hypothesis of climatic dispersal barriers based on ancient geography and the dinosaurian family tree. The breakdown of these barriers, and a wave of northward dispersal, coincided with a period of intense worldwide humidity, or the Carnian Pluvial Event.

After this, barriers returned, mooring the now-worldwide dinosaurs in their distinct provinces across Pangea for the remainder of the Triassic Period, according to the team. "This two-pronged approach combines hypothesis-driven predictive fieldwork with statistical methods to independently support the hypothesis that the earliest dinosaurs were restricted by climate to just a few areas of the globe," Griffin said.

Brenen Wynd, also a doctoral graduate of the Department of Geosciences, helped build the data model. "The early history of dinosaurs was a critical group for this kind of problem. Not only do we have a multitude of physical data from fossils, but also geochemical data that previously gave a really good idea of when major deserts were present," he said. "This is the first time where those geochemical and fossil data have been supported using only evolutionary history and the relationships between different dinosaur species, which is very exciting."

A boon for Zimbabwe and Virginia Tech palaeontology
The unearthing of one of the earliest dinosaurs ever found -- and most of it fully intact -- is a major win for the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe. "The discovery of the Mbiresaurus is an exciting and special find for Zimbabwe and the entire paleontological field," said Michel Zondo,a curator and fossil preparer at the museum. "The fact that the Mbiresaurus skeleton is almost complete, makes it a perfect reference material for further finds. It is the first sauropodomorph find of its size from Zimbabwe, otherwise most of our sauropodomorph finds from here are usually of medium- to large-sized animals."

Darlington Munyikwa, deputy executive director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, added,"The unfolding fossil assemblage from the Pebbly Arkose Formation in the Cabora Bassa Basin, which was hitherto known for paucity of animal fossils, is exciting. A number of fossil sites [are] waiting for future exploration were recorded, highlighting the potential of the area to add more valuable scientific material."

Much of the Mbiresaurus specimen is being kept in Virginia Tech's Derring Hall as the skeleton is cleaned and studied. All of the Mbiresaurus skeleton and the additional found fossilswill be permanently kept at Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

"This is such an exciting and important dinosaur find for Zimbabwe, and we have been watching the scientific process unfold with great pride,"saidMoira Fitzpatrick, the museum's director. She was not involved in the study. "It has been a pleasure to work with Dr. Griffin,and we hope the relationship will continue well into the future."

The discovery of Mbiresaurus also marks another highpoint for the Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group. In 2019, Nesbitt authored a paper detailing the newly named tyrannosauroid dinosaur Suskityrannus hazelae. Incredibly, Nesbitt discovered the fossil at age 16 as a high school student participating in a dig expedition in New Mexico in 1998.

"Our group seeks out equal partnerships and collaborations all over the world and this project demonstrates a highly successful and valued collaboration," Nesbitt said. "We will continue studying the many fossils from the same areas as where the new dinosaur came from and explore the fossil beds further."

Funding for the dig and follow-up research came from several sources, including National Geographic Society, the U.S. National Science Foundation, Geological Society of America, Paleontological Society, Virginia Tech Graduate School, Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences, and the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil.

Christopher T. Griffin, Brenen M. Wynd, Darlington Munyikwa, Tim J. Broderick, Michel Zondo, Stephen Tolan, Max C. Langer, Sterling J. Nesbitt, Hazel R. Taruvinga. Africa’s oldest dinosaurs reveal early suppression of dinosaur distribution. Nature, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05133-x

High Folic Acid Supplementation Associated With Higher Rates Of COVID-19 Infections And Mortality

August 31, 2022
People in the United Kingdom with folic acid prescriptions were 1.5 times more likely to get COVID-19. They were also 2.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to the control group. Those are the findings of a new study from UC Davis Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The research, published in the journal BMJ Open, also found that having a prescription for the antifolate drug methotrexate mitigated the negative impact of folic acid on COVID-19 when folic acid and methotrexate were given together.

The research team studied a large cohort of patients enrolled in the UK BioBank, a major biomedical database containing health information from half a million people.

"We examined whether COVID-19 diagnosis and death were related to the large doses of folic acid -- five times the safe upper limit -- prescribed to patients for a variety of medically approved indications. We found that the risk of becoming infected and dying from COVID-19 was significantly greater in the group treated with folic acid," said Ralph Green, an expert on B vitamins. Green is a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and co-senior author of the study.

Folic acid and COVID-19
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as folate. Low levels of B9 are associated with health conditions such as an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and birth defects.

Folic acid is prescribed for several conditions, including sickle cell disease, high-risk pregnancies, and people receiving anti-seizure medications. Folic acid is also prescribed to help offset some side effects for patients taking methotrexate.

Methotrexate is used to treat certain types of cancer and some autoimmune diseases. The drug is an "antifolate," meaning it interferes with folate, which cancer cells require for proliferation.

Green was inspired by research published last year in Nature Communications that suggested the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, hijacks the host's folate for viral replication. This suggests that the virus might be sensitive to both folate and folate inhibitors like

To find out if folic acid was associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 and if methotrexate was associated with a decreased risk, the researchers looked at folic acid and methotrexate prescription data from 2019 to 2021 in 380,380 participants in the UK Biobank.

They identified 26,033 individuals with COVID-19, of whom 820 died from COVID-19. People with a methotrexate prescription were diagnosed with COVID-19 at a similar rate to the general study population.

However, people with a folic acid prescription were diagnosed with COVID-19 infections at a higher rate (5.99%) and had a much higher COVID-19 mortality rate (15.97%) than the control group.

"Our findings could have implications for patients who take supplementary folate to prevent complications of other pharmacological therapies," said Angelo L. Gaffo, co-senior author and an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Although taking folate in these cases is clearly indicated, clinicians should be cautious about excessive folate intake. Of course, our results will require replication."

The researchers note that due to the makeup of the UK BioBank data, the current findings are limited to people 45 years of age and older who are predominantly from White European ethnicities of the UK population.

The study did not look at the serum folate levels of the participants. They note that further investigations are needed to explore the impact of folate status and folic acid intake on susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and its fatal complications.

"The defined safe upper limit of folic acid is one milligram. Until we have more information, it would be prudent to avoid extremely high doses of folic acid unless it is medically indicated. High folic acid would be of greater concern in unvaccinated individuals," Green said.

Additional co-authors include Ruth K. Topless of University of Otago, Sarah L. Morgan of University of Alabama at Birmingham, Philip C. Robinson of University of Queensland, Tony R. Merriman of the University of Otago and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Ruth Topless, Ralph Green, Sarah L Morgan, Philip Robinson, Tony Merriman, Angelo L Gaffo. Folic acid and methotrexate use and their association with COVID-19 diagnosis and mortality: a case–control analysis from the UK Biobank. BMJ Open, 2022; 12 (8): e062945 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-062945

Dolphins Form Largest Alliance Network Outside Humans

August 29, 2022
Male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multi-level alliance network outside humans, an international team led by researchers at the University of Bristol have shown. These cooperative relationships between groups increase male access to a contested resource.

The scientists, with colleagues from the University of Zurich and University of Massachusetts, analysed association and consortship data to model the structure of alliances between 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins at Shark Bay in Western Australia. Their findings have been published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Male dolphins in Shark Bay form first-order alliances of two-three males to cooperatively pursue consortships with individual females. Second-order alliances of four-14 unrelated males compete with other alliances over access to female dolphins and third-order alliances occur between cooperating second-order alliances.

Co-lead author Dr Stephanie King, Associate Professor from Bristol's School of BiologicalSciences explained: "Cooperation between allies is widespread in human societies and one of the hallmarks of our success. Our capacity to build strategic, cooperative relationships at multiple social levels, such as trade or military alliances both nationally and internationally, was once thought unique to our species.

"Not only have we shown that male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multilevel alliance network outside humans, but that cooperative relationships between groups, rather than simply alliance size, allows males to spend more time with females, thereby increasing their reproductive success."

Dr Simon Allen, Senior Lecturer at Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, who contributed to the study, said "We show that the duration over which these teams of male dolphins consort females is dependent upon being well-connected with third-order allies, that is, social ties between alliances leads to long-term benefits for these males."

Intergroup cooperation in humans was thought to be unique and dependent upon two other features that distinguish humans from our common ancestor with chimpanzees, the evolution of pair bonds and parental care by males. "However, our results show that intergroup alliances can emerge without these features, from a social and mating system that is more chimpanzee like" noted Richard Connor, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and now affiliated with Florida International University, who co-led the study with Dr King.

The publication of the importance of third level or intergroup alliances in dolphins in 2022 holds special significance as the team celebrate the 40th anniversary of the start of Shark Bay dolphin research in 1982 and the 30th anniversary of the publication in 1992 of their discovery of two levels of male alliance formation, also published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Dr. Michael Krützen, an author on the study and Head of the Anthropology Institute at the University of Zurich, added; "It is rare for non-primate research to be conducted from an anthropology department, but our study shows that important insights about the evolution of characteristics previously thought to be uniquely human can be gained by examining other highly social, large-brained taxa."

Dr King concluded: "Our work highlights that dolphin societies, as well as those of nonhuman primates, are valuable model systems for understanding human social and cognitive evolution."

Richard C. Connor, Michael Krützen, Simon J. Allen, William B. Sherwin, Stephanie L. King. Strategic intergroup alliances increase access to a contested resource in male bottlenose dolphins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022; 119 (36) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2121723119  Photo: Four male allies and a female. Images: Dr Simon Allen

New Way Found To Turn Number Seven Plastic Into Valuable Products

August 31, 2022
A method to convert a commonly thrown-away plastic to a resin used in 3D-printing could allow for making better use of plastic waste.

A team of Washington State University researchers developed a simple and efficient way to convert polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based plastic used in products such as filament, plastic silverware and food packaging to a high-quality resin.

"We found a way to immediately turn this into something that's stronger and better, and we hope that will provide people the incentive to upcycle this stuff instead of just toss it away," said Yu-Chung Chang, a postdoctoral researcher in the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and a co-corresponding author on the work. "We made stronger materials just straight out of trash. We believe this could be a great opportunity."

About 300,000 tons of PLA are produced annually, and its use is increasing dramatically.

Although it's bio-based, PLA, which is categorized as a number seven plastic, doesn't break down easily. It can float in fresh or salt water for a year without degrading. It is also rarely recycled because like many plastics, when it's melted down and re-formed, it doesn't perform as well as the original version and becomes less valuable.

The WSU research team, including postdoctoral researcher Yu-Chung Chang, used PLA plastic waste to create a high-quality resin for 3D printing.

"It's biodegradable and compostable, but once you look into it, it turns out that it can take up to 100 years for it to decompose in a landfill," Chang said. "In reality, it still creates a lot of pollution. We want to make sure that when we do start producing PLA on the million-tons scale, we will know how to deal with it."

In their study, published in the journal, Green Chemistry, the researchers, led by Professor Jinwen Zhang in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, developed a fast and catalyst-free method to recycle the PLA, breaking the long chain of molecules down into simple monomers -- the building blocks for many plastics. The entire chemical process can be done at mild temperatures in about two days. The chemical they used to break down the PLA, aminoethanol, is also inexpensive.

"If you want to rebuild a Lego castle into a car, you have to break it down brick by brick," Chang said. "That's what we did. The aminoethanol precision-cut the PLA back to a monomer, and once it's back to a monomer, the sky's the limit because you can re-polymerize it into something stronger."

Once the PLA was broken down to its basic building blocks, the researchers rebuilt the plastic and created a type of photo-curable liquid resin that is commonly used as printing "ink" for 3D printers. When it was used in a 3D printer and cured into plastic pieces, the product showed equal or better mechanical and thermal properties than commercially available resins.

While the researchers focused on PLA for the study, they hope to apply the work to polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is more common than PLA, has a similar chemical structure and presents a bigger waste problem.

They have filed a provisional patent and are working to further optimize the process. The researchers are also looking into other applications for the upcycling method.

Lin Shao, Yu-Chung Chang, Cheng Hao, Ming-en Fei, Baoming Zhao, Brian J. Bliss, Jinwen Zhang. A chemical approach for the future of PLA upcycling: from plastic wastes to new 3D printing materials. Green Chemistry, 2022; DOI: 10.1039/D2GC01745H

Team Developing Oral Insulin Tablet Sees Breakthrough Results

August 30, 2022
A team of University of British Columbia researchers working on developing oral insulin tablets as a replacement for daily insulin injections have made a game-changing discovery.

Researchers have discovered that insulin from the latest version of their oral tablets is absorbed by rats in the same way that injected insulin is.

"These exciting results show that we are on the right track in developing an insulin formulation that will no longer need to be injected before every meal, improving the quality of life, as well as mental health, of more than nine million Type 1 diabetics around the world." says professor Dr. Anubhav Pratap-Singh (he/him), the principal investigator from the faculty of land and food systems.

He explains the inspiration behind the search for a non-injectable insulin comes from his diabetic father who has been injecting insulin 3-4 times a day for the past 15 years.

According to Dr. Alberto Baldelli (he/him), a senior fellow in Dr. Pratap-Singh's lab, they are now seeing nearly 100 per cent of the insulin from their tablets go straight into the liver. In previous attempts to develop a drinkable insulin, most of the insulin would accumulate in the stomach.

"Even after two hours of delivery, we did not find any insulin in the stomachs of the rats we tested. It was all in the liver and this is the ideal target for insulin -- it's really what we wanted to see," says Yigong Guo (he/him), first author of the study and a PhD candidate working closely on the project.

Changing the mode of delivery
When it comes to insulin delivery, injections are not the most comfortable or convenient for diabetes patients. But with several other oral insulin alternatives also being tested and developed, the UBC team worked to solve where and how to facilitate a higher absorption rate.

Dr. Pratap-Singh's team developed a different kind of tablet that isn't made for swallowing, but instead dissolves when placed between the gum and cheek.

This method makes use of the thin membrane found within the lining of the inner cheek and back of the lips (also known as the buccal mucosa). It delivered all the insulin to the liver without wasting or decomposing any insulin along the way.

"For injected insulin we usually need 100iu per shot. Other swallowed tablets being developed that go to the stomach might need 500iu of insulin, which is mostly wasted, and that's a major problem we have been trying to work around," Yigong says.

Most swallowed insulin tablets in development tend to release insulin slowly over two to four hours, while fast-release injected insulin can be fully released in 30-120 minutes.

"Similar to the rapid-acting insulin injection, our oral delivery tablet absorbs after half an hour and can last for about two to four hours long," says Dr. Baldelli.

Potential broad benefits
The study is yet to go into human trials, and for this to happen Dr. Pratap-Singh says they will require more time, funding and collaborators. But beyond the clear potential benefits to diabetics, he says the tablet they are developing could also be more sustainable, cost-effective and accessible.

"More than 300,000 Canadians have to inject insulin multiple times per day," Dr. Pratap-Singh says. "That is a lot of environmental waste from the needles and plastic from the syringe that might not be recycled and go to landfill, which wouldn't be a problem with an oral tablet."

He explains that their hope is to reduce the cost of insulin per dose since their oral alternative could be cheaper and easier to make. Transporting the tablets would be easier for diabetics, who currently have to think about keeping their doses cool.

Yigong Guo, Alberto Baldelli, Anika Singh, Farahnaz Fathordoobady, David Kitts, Anubhav Pratap-Singh. Production of high loading insulin nanoparticles suitable for oral delivery by spray drying and freeze drying techniques. Scientific Reports, 2022; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-13092-6

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.