Inbox and environment news: Issue 558

October 16 - 22, 2022: Issue 558

Impacting Pittwater - Have Your Say:

Scotland Island Spring Garden Festival

When: Sunday, October 16, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Where: Scotland Island Community Hall
Details:  Come and celebrate Spring with us! There are kids’ activities, open garden visits, workshops, plant sales and talks. And the café is open from 10 am to 2 pm, selling coffee, cakes and yummy food.

Catch the Ferry from Church Point to the Island, get off at Tennis Wharf.
  • Midday - Craig Burton - renowned landscape architect - Scotland Island - What was here what mistakes have been made and making the best of we've got moving forward.
  • Weed Warrior Game! Fun Game for kids finding weeds in the Park! lots of prizes.
  • Cafe Open till 2pm, Barista Coffee with Artisan Cakes and Pastries | Sausage Sizzle.
  • Open Gardens
  • Special Harpist Performance on the lawn of Yamba.

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 11:00 AM, ManlyRSVP:
Co-hosted by: Save Northern Beaches Bushland, Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee, Seas of Change

National Bird Week + Aussie Bird Count 2022

National Bird Week 2022 will take place between Monday 17 October and Sunday 23 October. The celebration of National Bird Week has its origins back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by BirdLife Australia's predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’. BirdLife Australia organises and promotes Bird Week with the goal of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts.

BirdLife Australia brings you the Aussie Bird Count, one of Australia's biggest citizen science events! Celebrate National Bird Week by taking part in the Aussie Bird Count — you will be joining thousands of people from across the country who will be heading out into their backyards, local parks or favourite outdoor spaces to take part.

To get involved all you need is 20 minutes, your favourite outdoor space (this can be your yard, local park, beach, or anywhere you can see birds), and some keen eyesight. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert — we will be there to help you out. Simply record the birds you know and look up those you don’t on our ‘Aussie Bird Count’ app or our website. You’ll instantly see live statistics and information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted in your neighbourhood and the whole of Australia.  Not only will you get to know your feathered neighbours, but you’ll be contributing to a vital pool of information from across the nation that will help us see how Australian birds are faring.

So get your friends and family together during National Bird Week, head into the great outdoors and start counting.
To find out more or get involved, please visit:

Photos: Rainbow Lorikeet and Little Corella in Pittwater on September 29, 2022. Photos taken by A J Guesdon.

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Spring is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

Book Your Free Ticket To: Developing Sustainable Communities

You are warmly invited to a talk by Robin Allison, author of ‘Cohousing for Life’ and initiator of the award winning ‘Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood’ in New Zealand. Earthsong is recognised internationally as a model for sustainable community. It paints a positive future for the environment, the economy, elder care, child care, mental health and individual well-being. Robin's book will be for sale on the night.
DATE: 24th November, 2022
TIME: 6PM to 9PM
PLACE: The Coastal Environment Centre,
Entrance Pelican Path, Lake Park Rd, North Narrabeen
FREE or by Donation
For more information please visit:
We recognise our First Nations People as the original custodians of this land and as leaders in sustainability.
Eastern Whipbird in Narrabeen. Photo: Joe Mills
Tongue Orchid Dendrobium linguiforme on rocks near Whale Beach Rd/Beauty drive. Grows on rocks and trees, usually in sclerophyll forest, also in rainforest and in exposed rocky sites; coastal sites north of Ulladulla, west to Gungal and Tamworth districts.
Photo/information: Marita Macrae, Pittwater Natural Heritage Association.

Turimetta was covered in washed up Bluebottles on Friday October 7th on the high tide line.

The erosion shows how heavy were during the recent overnight rains.

The occy was darting under the rock ledge at Narrabeen Rock Pool.

Photos/information: Joe Mills

Weed Alert: Corky Passionflower At Mona Vale + Narrabeen Creek

Corky Passionflower Passiflora suberosa, native to South America, is becoming common around Mona Vale and along Narrabeen Creek.  This is an aggressive invader. It is usually most successful in the sub-canopy, where it smothers small trees, shrubs and even the ground cover species. Corky passionflower has been observed smothering upper canopy species in some locations. 

Corky passionflower is recorded as a weed in a number of countries throughout the Pacific region.

Corky passionflower is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants under their control.

Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws.
Corky passionflower is a perennial vine with extensive, twining tendrils. Stems are commonly purplish in colour. Leaves are dark green and may be three-lobed (with the centre lobe the largest) or entire in shape. They are generally 4–8 cm long, with a leaf stalk up to 2.5 cm long. Flowers are up to 2.5 cm wide and appear in solitary arrangement in leaf axils. They are free of petals, but they possess ‘sepals’ that are yellow-green in colour, with a purple inner fringe. Fruits are purple and are readily eaten by birds, aiding in considerable seed dispersal.

The most reliable method of control for corky passionflower is hand pulling when the soil is moist. Care must be taken not to break the stem above the roots, or the plant will regenerate. The above-ground vegetative parts of the weed can be removed using a brush hook or similar tool. 

This should be recognised as an emerging weed in our area that needs to be controlled. Please report to NBC if you see it, with a photo and location. 

Corky bark on lower stems, leaves rather like Ivy, clusters of flowers and berries. Photos: Wikipedia

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.

EPA Releases Climate Change Policy And Action Plan

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is taking action to protect the environment and community from the impacts of climate change, today releasing its new draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan which works with industry, experts and the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support resilience.

NSW EPA Chief Executive Officer Tony Chappel said the EPA has proposed a set of robust actions to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 (from 2005 levels), ensure net zero emissions by 2050, and improve resilience to climate change impacts.

“NSW has ambitious targets that align with the world’s best scientific advice and the Paris commitments, to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees in order to avoid severe impacts on ecosystems,” Mr Chappel said.

“Over the past few years we have seen first-hand just how destructive the impacts of climate change are becoming, not only for our environment, but for NSW communities too.

“We know the EPA has a critical role to play in achieving the NSW Government’s net-zero targets and responding to the increasing threat of climate change induced weather events.

“Equally, acting on climate presents major economic opportunities for NSW in new industries such as clean energy, hydrogen, green metals, circular manufacturing, natural capital and regenerative agriculture.

“This draft Policy sends a clear signal to regulated industries that we will be working with them to support and drive cost-effective decarbonisation while implementing adaptation initiatives that build resilience to climate change risks.

“Our draft plan proposes a staged approach that ensures the actions the EPA takes are deliberate, well informed and complement government and industry actions on climate change. These actions will support industry and allow reasonable time for businesses to plan for and meet any new targets or requirements.

“Climate change is an issue that we all face so it’s important that we take this journey together and all play our part in protecting our environment and communities for generations to come.”

Actions include:

  • working with industry, government and experts to improve the evidence base on climate change
  • supporting licensees prepare, implement and report on climate change mitigation and adaptation plans
  • partnering with NSW Government agencies to address climate change during the planning and assessment process for activities the EPA regulates
  • establishing cost-effective emission reduction targets for key industry sectors
  • providing industry best-practice guidelines to support them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
  • phasing in the introduction of greenhouse gas emission limits on environment protection licences for key industry sectors
  • developing and implementing resilience programs, best-practice adaptation guidance and harnessing citizen science and education programs
  • working with EPA Aboriginal and Youth Advisory Committees to improve the EPA’s evolving climate change response

EPA Acting Chair Carolyn Walsh said the EPA is a partner in supporting and building on the NSW Government’s work to address climate change for the people of NSW.

“The draft Policy and Action Plan adopts, supports and builds on the strong foundations that have been set by the NSW Government through the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework, Net Zero Plan and Climate Change Adaptation Strategy,” Ms Walsh said.

The EPA will work with stakeholders, including licensees, councils, other government agencies, and the community to help implement the actions.

The draft EPA Climate Change Policy and Action Plan is available at and comments are open until 3 November 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 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

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

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Toondah Harbour Proposal Will Undermine Global Protection Of Wetlands: BirdLife Australia Vehemently Opposes The Proposal

October 12, 2022
Today the Walker Corporation, Australia’s largest private developer, is expected to release its draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed Toondah Harbour project, that includes 3,600 residential and commercial units and a 200-berth marina right on top of the Moreton Bay Ramsar Site.

BirdLife Australia vehemently opposes Walker Corporation’s proposal.

“This development will not only impact important habitat for wildlife in Australia, it will also have global ramifications by undermining the Ramsar Treaty,” said BirdLife Australia’s CEO Paul Sullivan.

“While it will take days to dig through and analyse the thousands of pages of the draft EIS, it is already clear that this proposal should not be approved by Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek” he said.

“There’s absolutely no environmentally justifiable argument for this construction to go ahead within the boundaries of the Ramsar site.”

“We know that environmentalists and bird scientists across the world are keenly watching the outcome of this process with grave concerns for the potential impact in other nations as well as to species in Australia,” Mr Sullivan continued.

“It is absolutely shocking that Walker Corporation has described concerns by scientists as 'scaremongering'.”

“The population of Eastern Curlews has declined by over 80% in the past 30 years, largely due to similar coastal development projects across their range, and this development will also impact a number of other bird and animal species.”

“We stand together with local residents in the Redlands who also want to protect this special place and what it means to their community.”

BirdLife Australia, and our international bird conservation partners, are watching this process closely and fully expect Minister Plibersek to uphold Australia’s national and international conservation obligations and reject this completely inappropriate project later this year.

Eastern Curlew at Careel Bay foreshore in October 2011 - A J Guesdon photo

Raising Warragamba Dam Wall Threatens Birds On The Edge: Regents Threatened By Floods Upstream Of Megadam

BirdLife Australia — Australia’s peak bird conservation charity — strongly opposes NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s decision to significantly raise the height of the wall of the Warragamba Dam, which would cause flooding of vital conservation habitat. We also condemn his declaration of the project as ‘critical state significant infrastructure’, thereby removing the community’s rights to lodge objections.  

If the height of the dam wall were to be increased by 14 metres (the height of a four-storey building), as proposed, substantial areas of World Heritage-listed National Park and culturally significant landscape in the Blue Mountains would be at risk of extensive flooding, potentially destroying thousands of hectares of threatened bird habitat that is vital for the survival of the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater. 

The Regent Honeyeaters is one of Australia’s most threatened species. 

“Ironically, by preventing floods further downstream, a higher dam wall would cause catastrophic flooding of crucial Regent Honeyeater habitat upstream instead,” said Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia.  

“Almost all of Australia’s surviving Regent Honeyeaters nest around the edges of the Greater Blue Mountains, so the region is crucial for them,” she said. “To ensure their survival, these breeding sites must be protected, especially those inside a World Heritage-listed National Park.” 

Raising the Warragamba Dam wall would inundate the trees the honeyeaters nest in, killing the trees and so destroying the honeyeaters’ habitat, thereby undermining years of investment by the NSW Government and its partner organisations (such as BirdLife Australia) in funding recovery actions for Regent Honeyeaters and their habitats. 

Premier Perrottet’s decision flies in the face of the recently released National Threatened Species Action Plan, which lists Regent Honeyeaters as one of the priority species for conservation and the Greater Blue Mountains as a priority place. 

The decision to extend the dam wall is also at odds with affected local communities, flood mitigation experts, the International World Heritage Committee, and even members of the NSW Government, with calls for alternative flood mitigation plans for the region. 

While more frequent and severe flooding events have been predicted for eastern NSW with a changing climate, there are other, less destructive flood mitigation options that will protect both our communities and our precious environment — it’s not an ‘either/or’ situation.  

“Endangered species should not have to bear the cost of poor planning decisions made in the past,” Ms Vine said, “nor planning decisions that have only just been made.” 

Photo: Shutterstock

Touch Down!

The season’s first Orange-bellied Parrots have arrived at their breeding site
Breeding season is here for many birds, and the Orange-bellied Parrot is no exception.

A sure sign of this is the return of the Orange-bellied Parrots to only-known breeding site, at Melaleuca, in Tasmania’s South West.

The first bird arrived earlier this month, returning via an arduous Bass Strait crossing, having spent the winter months feeding in the coastal saltmarshes of the Australian mainland.

This first bird had been bred in captivity, and released at Melaleuca back in February 2019, making this its eighth successful crossing of Bass Strait. Since its early arrival, six more OBPs have also turned up. Of these seven birds, four were zoo-bred and released into the wild as juveniles (two were hatched at Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, with the other two originated from Healesville Sanctuary); the other three hatched in the wild at Melaleuca.

More migrating parrots will arrive at their breeding site in the coming weeks, with the last stragglers expected to touch down at Melaleuca by early December.

With the success of previous releases of zoo-bred birds to bolster the breeding population of OBPs in the wild, it’s planned to conduct three more such releases over the next few weeks, with two due to take place in October, and another early in November.

The wild weather of La Niña could wipe out vast stretches of Australia’s beaches and sand dunes

Javier LeonUniversity of the Sunshine Coast

Australians along the east cost are bracing for yet another round of heavy rainfall this weekend, after a band of stormy weather soaked most of the continent this week.

The Bureau of Meteorology has alerted southern inland Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria and northern Tasmania to ongoing flood risks, as the rain falls on already flooded or saturated catchments.

This widespread wet weather heralds Australia’s rare third back-to-back La Niña, which goes hand-in-hand with heavy rain. There is, however, another pressing issue arising from La Niña events: coastal erosion.

The wild weather associated with La Niña will drive more erosion along Australia’s east coast – enough to wipe out entire stretches of beaches and dunes, if all factors align. So, it’s important we heed lessons from past storms and plan ahead, as climate change will only exacerbate future coastal disasters.

Ongoing flood risk for eastern Australia | Bureau of Meteorology.

How La Niña Batters Coastlines

La Niña is associated with warmer waters in the western Pacific Ocean, which increase storminess off Australia’s east coast. Chances of a higher number of tropical cyclones increase, as do the chances of cyclones travelling further south and further inland, and of more frequent passages of east coast lows.

Australians had a taste of this in 1967, when the Gold Coast was hit by the largest storm cluster on record, made up of four cyclones and three east coast lows within six months. 1967 wasn’t even an official La Niña year, with the index just below the La Niña threshold.

Such frequency didn’t allow beaches to recover between storms, and the overall erosion was unprecedented. It forced many local residents to use anything on hand, even cars, to protect their properties and other infrastructure.

Official La Niña events occurred soon after. This included a double-dip La Niña between 1970 and 1972, followed by a triple-dip La Niña between 1973 and 1976.

These events fuelled two cyclones in 1972, two in 1974 and one in 1976, wreaking havoc along the entire east coast of Australia. Indeed, 1967 and 1974 are considered record years for storm-induced coastal erosion.

Studies show the extreme erosion of 1974 was caused by a combination of large waves coinciding with above-average high tides. It took over ten years for the sand to come back to the beach and for dunes to recover. However, recent studies also show single extreme storms can bring back considerable amounts of sand from deeper waters.

La Niña also modifies the direction of waves along the east coast, resulting in waves approaching from a more easterly direction (anticlockwise).

This subtle change has huge implications when it comes to erosion of otherwise more sheltered north-facing beaches. We saw this during the recent, and relatively weaker, double La Niña of 2016-18.

In 2016, an east coast low of only moderate intensity produced extreme erosion, similar to that of 1974. Scenes of destruction along NSW – including a collapsed backyard pool on Collaroy Beach – are now iconic.

This is largely because wave direction deviated from the average by 45 degrees anticlockwise, during winter solstice spring tides when water levels are higher.

All Ducks Aligned?

The current triple-dip La Niña started in 2020. Based on Australia’s limited record since 1900, we know the final events in such sequences tend to be the weakest.

However, when it comes to coastal hazards, history tells us smaller but more frequent storms can cause as much or more erosion than one large event. This is mostly about the combination of storm direction, sequencing and high water levels.

For example, Bribie Island in Queensland was hit by relatively large easterly waves from ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth earlier this year, coinciding with above-average high tides. This caused the island to split in two and form a 300-metre wide passage of seawater.

Further, the prolonged period of easterly waves since 2020 has already taken a toll on beaches and dunes in Australia.

Traditionally, spring is the season when sand is transported onshore under fair-weather waves, building back wide beaches and tall dunes nearest to the sea. However, beaches haven’t had time to fully recover from the previous two years, which makes them more vulnerable to future erosion.

Repeated elevation measurements by our team and citizen scientists along beaches in the Sunshine Coast and Noosa show shorelines have eroded more than 10m landwards since the beginning of this year. As the photo below shows, 2-3m high erosion scarps (which look like small cliffs) have formed along dunes due to frequent heavy rainfalls and waves.

Dune scarps at a beach in Noosa. Javier LeonAuthor provided

On the other hand, we can also see that the wet weather has led to greater growth of vegetation on dunes, such as native spinifex and dune bean.

Experiments in laboratory settings show dune vegetation can dissipate up to 40-50% of the water level reached as a result of waves, and reduce erosion. But whether this increase in dune vegetation mitigates further erosion remains to be seen.

A Challenging Future

The chances of witnessing coastal hazards similar to those in 1967 or 1974 in the coming season are real and, in the unfortunate case they materialise, we should be ready to act. Councils and communities need to prepare ahead and work together towards recovery if disaster strikes using, for example, sand nourishment and sandbags.

Looking ahead, it remains essential to further our understanding about coastal dynamics – especially in a changing climate – so we can better manage densely populated coastal regions.

After all, much of what we know about the dynamics of Australia’s east coast has been supported by coastal monitoring programs, which were implemented along Queensland and NSW after the 1967 and 1974 storms.

Scientists predict that La Niña conditions along the east coast of Australia – such as warmer waters, higher sea levels, stronger waves and more waves coming from the east – will become the norm under climate change.

It’s crucial we start having a serious conversation about coastal adaptation strategies, including implementing a managed retreat. The longer we take, the higher the costs will be.The Conversation

Javier Leon, Senior lecturer, University of the Sunshine Coast

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

On our wettest days, stormclouds can dump 30 trillion litres of water across Australia

Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne

This week, rain has drenched almost all of Australia – even the arid interior. The heaviest falls have hit the continent’s southeast, where the huge deluge has just propelled Sydney past its annual rainfall record of 2.2 metres with three months to go until year’s end.

Other parts of the eastern seaboard are bracing for yet more flooding in coming days. So what’s actually causing all this rain?

It all started last week, when unusually warm seas off northwest Australia gave off vast volumes of moist air. This air rose to form huge clouds which, propelled by winds, carried billions of tonnes of water across the continent.

Clouds might look fluffy and insubstantial, but they actually carry truly gigantic quantities of water. Let’s take the nearly 100 millimetres of rain that’s fallen so far this week on Sydney’s inner city – about 25 square kilometres. That’s about 2.5 billion litres of water!

On the wettest days, we can accumulate more than 4mm of rain on average across the whole continent. This equates to about 30 trillion litres of water. Or, to use the colloquial Australian measurement, 60 Sydney Harbour’s worth (1 Sydharb = 500 gigalitres).

Why Do We Get Rain In The First Place?

Major rain events need two main ingredients: moisture and rising motion in the atmosphere. Most of that moisture comes from evaporation from oceans but some comes from evaporation from the land, especially when it’s wet.

We get rising motion with surface heating or when air is forced to go up over obstacles (like mountains), or when we have weather systems that cause the air to ascend.

A blob of moist air rising from the surface will expand as it moves higher up in the atmosphere, since air pressure drops quickly with height. This is why balloons eventually pop when they go up in the sky. We can’t see this blob as it rises – it hasn’t turned white and fluffy yet.

The expansion of this moist air blob requires work, so energy has to be found from somewhere. The energy is taken from the movement of air and water molecules within the blob, and since temperature is a measure of the movement of molecules, the air cools.

As the air cools and the water molecules slow down, they stick together more easily, forming droplets. This is the process of condensation and it results in clouds forming. Clouds range in sizes but the biggest cumulonimbus – towering dark storm clouds – can reach more than 10km above the surface.

Even small clouds contain a lot of water. A single cloud covering one cubic kilometre would hold around 500 tonnes of water. You might wonder why this weight doesn’t bring the whole cloud down immediately. The answer is the moisture is very spread out throughout the cloud, and the air beneath the cloud is denser.

At a certain point, enough water has condensed and come together into droplets for gravity to win out and pull the water to the ground as rain.

uluru rainy day
On rare days, rain can fall across a third of Australia - even on the arid interior, as this 2019 photo of Uluru shows. Shutterstock

So Why’s It Raining So Much Right Now?

Right now, we have abundant moisture in the air. The weather is primed to move moisture up through the atmosphere, via low pressure systems and cold fronts moving from west to east.

Low pressure systems mean air pressure is lower than the surrounding areas. Because nature likes to even things out, air at the surface moves in to try and cancel out differences in pressure, although the rotation of the Earth forces the air to spiral in rather than moving directly in. This creates winds which move in towards the low pressure centre and then have to move upwards, carrying moisture with them. That’s why low pressure systems are associated with winds and rain.

Cold fronts are characterised by rising masses of air because they mark divisions between colder and warmer air. The warmer air is less dense and forced to rise over the colder air.

bureau of meteorology forecast with lows and highs
Low pressure is expected to dominate over eastern Australia with troughs and cold fronts crossing the region and bringing rain. Bureau of MeteorologyCC BY

Why is there so much moisture in the air? That’s linked to warmer sea temperatures off northern Australia, which cause more water to evaporate from the sea surface.

La Niña conditions – which we’re experiencing for the third year running – brings cooler seas in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator and above-average sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific, including around Australia.

But La Niña has company. We also have what’s called a negative Indian Ocean Dipole, where westerly winds intensify, warming the waters around Indonesia and Australia’s northwest.

During La Niña, sea surface temperatures are lower than average in the tropical central and eastern Pacific but warmer than normal around Australia. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

With these two climate cycles intersecting, we get more and more moisture in the air around Australia. When low pressure systems emerge, they draw the moisture over the continent and cause the air to rise and form heavily-laden clouds.

We can get heavy rains without La Niña, but La Niña loads the dice, making it more likely we get heavier and more widespread rain events. For example, the chance of having a wet day across a third of Australia more than doubles during La Niña compared to neutral conditions – and is more than five times more likely than in an El Niño event.

Australia has more days with widespread rain during the La Niña (LN) phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate cycle compared to El Niño (EN) or neutral spring seasons. Histograms of percentage area of Australia experiencing a wet day (greater than 1 mm of rain) by ENSO phase based on Bureau of Meteorology gridded rainfall data. Author provided

During most spring days, only a small percentage of Australia has a day with more than 1mm of rain. But occasionally, we can have days when a third or more of the continent experiences rain – just as we’ve seen this week.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

With the devastating floods of February and March still fresh in our memories, most Australians will be hoping for the rain to stop.

But the deluge isn’t done with us yet.

As La Niña continues, we can expect more widespread heavy rain events. And since eastern Australia’s soils are saturated in many areas, there’s a renewed chance of flooding.

By the start of next year, most forecast models predict a weakening La Niña. But it will most likely be a wet summer. Keep your eye on the horizon – and look for the clouds. The Conversation

Andrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of Melbourne

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

Labor’s plan to save threatened species is an improvement – but it’s still well short of what we need

Euan RitchieDeakin UniversityMegan C EvansUNSW Sydney, and Yung En CheeThe University of Melbourne

Australia’s dire and shameful conservation record is well established. The world’s highest number of recent mammal extinctions – 39 since colonisation. Ecosystems collapsing from the north to the south, across our lands and waters. Even species that have survived so far are at risk, as the sad list of threatened species and ecological communities continues to grow.

During the election campaign, Labor pledged to turn this around. On Tuesday, federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek announced what this would look like: a new action plan for 110 threatened species. The goal: no new extinctions. “Our current approach has not been working. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same results,” Plibersek said.

But is this really a step change? Let’s be clear. This plan is a welcome improvement – especially the focus on First Nations rangers and Indigenous knowledge, clearer targets, better monitoring and the goal of protecting 30% of Australia’s lands and seas within five years.

But the funding is wholly inadequate. The A$225 million committed is an order of magnitude less than what we need to actually bring these threatened species back from oblivion. The grim reality is this plan is nowhere near enough to halt the extinctions. Here’s why.

There’s Nowhere Near Enough Funding

Conservation costs money. Recovering threatened species takes effort. Tackling the threats that are pushing them over the edge, from feral cats to land clearing, is expensive. “Measures of last resort”, such as captive breeding, creation of safe havens and translocations, takes more still.

How much is enough? Estimates put it at A$1.7 billion per year. This is around one-seventh of the money Australian governments spent on fossil fuel subsidies last financial year. If there’s funding for that, there should be funding for wildlife.

Make no mistake – starving conservation of adequate funding is a choice. For decades, Australia’s unique environment and wildlife have been thrown consolation crumbs of funding – even though they are our collective natural heritage, fundamental to human survival, wellbeing and economic prosperity, and a major draw card for tourists and locals. You can see the results for yourself: more extinctions and many more threatened species.

Picking Winners Means Many Species Will Lose

Labor’s plan is focused on arresting the decline of 110 species, and 20 places such as the Australian Alps, Bruny Island and Kakadu and West Arnhem Land.

Unfortunately, that’s a drop in the ocean. Combined, we now have more than 2,000 species and ecological communities listed as threatened. Picking species to survive betrays our remarkable, diverse and largely unique plants, animals and ecosystems. It suggests – wrongly – that we have to choose winners and losers, when in fact we could save them all.

The plan assumes recovering priority species may help conserve other threatened species in the same areas and habitats. This is questionable, given only around 6% of listed threatened species are slated to receive priority funding, and how much the needs of different species can vary even in the same habitats and ecosystems. Different species respond very differently to fire regimes, for instance.

Policies And Laws Are Essential

Funding by itself isn’t enough. Unless all levels of governments enact and enforce effective policies aimed at conserving species and their homes, the situation will worsen. Australians are still waiting to see what reforms actually emerge from Graeme Samuel’s sweeping review of the main laws governing biodiversity and environmental protection.

Alignment of policies is vital. What’s the point of saving a rare finch from land clearing if you’re simultaneously opening up huge areas to fracking, polluting groundwater and adding yet more emissions to our overheated atmosphere? Despite Labor’s rhetoric on threatened species and climate change, they are still committed to more coal and gas.

Similarly, native vegetation clearing and habitat loss is barely mentioned in the threatened species plan. Yet these are leading causes of environmental degradation, as the 2021 State of the Environment Report makes clear.

If you want to save the critically endangered western ringtail possum and endangered black cockatoos, why would you approve the clearing of habitat vital to their existence? The Labor government did just that in July.

Conserving More Land Isn’t A Panacea

Protecting 30% of Australia’s lands and oceans by 2030 sounds great. But protecting degraded farmland is not the same as protecting a biodiverse grassland or wetland. And establishing protected areas is not the same as effective management.

To get this right, the new areas must add to our existing conservation estates by adding species and ecological communities with little or no representation. They must help species move as they would have before European colonisation, by connecting protected areas separated by human settlement or farms. And there must be enough money to actually look after the land. There’s no point protecting ever-larger tracts of degraded, weed-infested, rabbit, deer, horse, pig, fox and cat-filled land.

degraded farmland
Protecting degraded land shouldn’t be the goal. Shutterstock

The 50 million hectares of land and sea to be added by 2027 is supposed to come almost entirely from Indigenous Protected Areas. But again, where’s the funding? Right now, these land and sea areas get a pittance – a few cents per hectare per year.

It’s also important to support conservation on private land, where many threatened species live and where significant gains can be made. Maintaining wildlife on private land can also help farmers and landholders through pollination and seed dispersal as well as broader ecosystem health.

We Need Laws With Teeth

If you liked it, you should have put a law around it. If the federal government is serious about ending extinctions, it should be enshrined in legislation. As it stands, “zero extinctions” is a promise with no clear way for us to see who is responsible or how the promise will be kept.

Too cynical? Alas, there’s a very real trend here. Successive governments have avoided accountability for losing species doing exactly this. They release strategies on glossy paper which note we all have a role to play in conservation – but strangely omit the part about who is responsible when a species dies out. If you want to save species, make human careers depend on species staying alive.

We know strong legislation and billions rather than millions of dollars are needed to stop extinctions. So far, the new government has announced inadequate funding, a non-binding strategy with an aspirational goal, and a seemingly rushed idea of a biodiversity market, dubbed “green Wall Street”, which made conservationists including the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists very concerned.

Tossing breadcrumbs to conservation is what we’ve done for decades. It’s a major reason why our unique species are in this mess. Time’s up.The Conversation

Euan Ritchie, Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin UniversityMegan C Evans, Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow, UNSW Sydney, and Yung En Chee, Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Science, The University of Melbourne

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

Australia has hundreds of mammal species. We want to find them all – before they’re gone

Andrew M. BakerQueensland University of TechnologyDiana FisherThe University of QueenslandGreta FrankhamAustralian MuseumKenny TravouillonWestern Australian MuseumLinette UmbrelloWestern Australian MuseumMark EldridgeAustralian MuseumSally PotterMacquarie University, and Stephen JacksonAustralian Museum

Life on Earth is undergoing a period of mass extinction – the sixth in history, and the first caused by humans. As species disappear at an alarming rate, we have learned that we understand only a fraction of Earth’s variety of life.

The task of describing this biodiversity before it is lost relies on the discipline of taxonomy, the scientific practice of classifying and naming organisms.

But taxonomy is far more than just naming things. It underpins an enormous range of human activities, including biology (via health and conservation management), the economy (via agriculture and biosecurity) and many other areas of endeavour.

Unfortunately, taxonomy is suffering globally from reduced support and funding. This is an area of ongoing concern recognised in Australia’s State of the Environment report released in July this year. The workforce of taxonomists has declined when it is needed most.

Taxonomists Unite

So, what is being done?

Communities of taxonomists in Australia and the world over are making a concerted effort to face the challenge of naming and understanding Earth’s unknown species.

Australian taxonomists are garnering support to achieve the goal of documenting all Australian species by 2050.

This ambitious plan requires not just government and other external support but also co-ordination of our taxonomists. Success will mean bringing together those who study lesser-known groups, such as insects, spiders and fungi, with those who work on more familiar groups such as vertebrates, including mammals.

Mammals Under Threat

Mammals are perhaps the best known and cherished group of species on the planet. Even so, many mammals remain undiscovered.

Mammals are also among the most threatened animal groups globally. And because it has contributed the most species to the list, Australia has the worst modern mammal extinction record of any country, along with one of the most distinctive mammal faunas on Earth: about 90% of our terrestrial mammals live nowhere else.

More than 100 species that lived only in Australia are recognised as having become extinct since 1788.

The Bramble Cay melomys is believed to be the first mammal made extinct at least in part by human-caused climate change. Ian Bell / EHP / QueenslandCC BY

Thirty-nine of these extinct species are mammals. Most recently, this includes the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a native rodent declared extinct in 2016, and the first known mammal extinction due at least in part to human-induced climate change.

In the face of an avalanche of human-mediated threats, including climate warming, land-use change and introduction of pest species, are the host of hidden mammal species destined for extinction before they are even discovered, described and known to humanity?

The Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium

To help address this existential threat, and in response to the call to arms within Australian taxonomy, we have formed the Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium (AMTC), a group affiliated with the Australian Mammal Society.

The consortium aims to promote stability and consensus, provide advice and guidance, and promote the cause and importance of Australasian mammal taxonomy to both scientists and the broader public.

We have recently introduced the aspirations and aims of our group in a review paper and published our first list of species, covering Australian mammals.

Not just koalas and kangaroos: the Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium currently recognises 404 species of Australian mammals. EcoPrint / Shutterstock

We recognise 404 Australian mammal species, including 2 monotremes (platypus and short-beaked echidna), 175 marsupials (such as the Tasmanian devil, the numbat, the koala, kangaroos and so on) and 227 placentals (such as rodents, bats, seals, whales and dolphins). The list includes 11 species, and numerous subspecies, that have only been discovered and formally named in the past decade.

A suite of other recognised variable forms, new species-in-waiting, need study and description.

The Australian mammal species list will be updated annually to incorporate new species names. In the future, working with research groups throughout the region, we will produce lists of mammal species found elsewhere in Australasia.

A New Launching Point

We hope this will standardise the use of mammal species names, highlight groups where further taxonomic work is required, and provide a launching point for this work.

In the past decade, rapid DNA sequencing has revolutionised our ability to understand biodiversity, even while species loss to extinction at the hands of humanity is at an all-time high. This juxtaposition makes it both an exciting and critically important time for taxonomy.

We hope the Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium can do its part to help grow and focus an interest to better understand and conserve our precious Australasian mammals before it is too late.

The authors comprise a steering committee representing the broader Australasian Mammal Taxonomy Consortium working group, which includes more than 30 members.The Conversation

Andrew M. Baker, Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science, Queensland University of TechnologyDiana Fisher, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, The University of QueenslandGreta Frankham, Scientific Officer, Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics, Australian MuseumKenny Travouillon, Curator of Mammals, Western Australian MuseumLinette Umbrello, Research Associate – Terrestrial Zoology, Western Australian MuseumMark Eldridge, Principal Research Scientist, Terrestrial Vertebrates, Australian MuseumSally Potter, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University, and Stephen Jackson, Associate Director, Collection Enhancement Project, Australian Museum

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

740,000km of fishing line and 14 billion hooks: we reveal just how much fishing gear is lost at sea each year

Bo Eide/CSIROAuthor provided
Britta Denise HardestyCSIROChris WilcoxCSIROJoanna VinceUniversity of Tasmania, and Kelsey RichardsonCSIRO

Two per cent of all fishing gear used worldwide ends up polluting the oceans, our new research finds. To put that into perspective, the amount of longline fishing gear littering the ocean each year can circle the Earth more than 18 times.

We interviewed 450 fishers from seven of the world’s biggest fishing countries including Peru, Indonesia, Morocco and the United States, to find out just how much gear enters the global ocean. We found at current loss rates, in 65 years there would be enough fishing nets littering the sea to cover the entire planet.

This lost fishing equipment, known as ghost gear, can cause heavy social, economic and environmental damage. Hundreds of thousands of animals are estimated to die each year from unintentional capture in fishing nets. Derelict nets can continue to fish indiscriminately for decades.

Our research findings help highlight where to focus efforts to stem the tide of fishing pollution. It can also help inform fisheries management and policy interventions from local to global scales.

Fishing boats in port near Lima, Peru. CSIRO

14 Billion Longline Hooks Litter The Sea Each Year

The data we collected came directly from fishers themselves. They experience this issue firsthand and are best poised to inform our understanding of fishing gear losses.

We surveyed fishers using five major gear types: gillnets, longlines, purse seine nets, trawl nets, and pots and traps.

We asked how much fishing gear they used and lost annually, and what gear and vessel characteristics could be making the problem worse. This included vessel and gear size, whether the gear contacts the seafloor, and the total amount of gear used by the vessel.

We coupled these surveys with information on global fishing effort data from commercial fisheries.

Man uses longline on a boat
Longlines are deep-sea fishing lines that trail behind a boat, and are made up of many short lines with baited hooks that come off of each ‘long’ line. Vessels may have from 25 to 2,500 hooks or more for each line. Shutterstock

Fishers use different types of nets to catch different types of fish. Our research found the amount of nets littering the ocean each year include:

  • 740,000 kilometres of longline mainlines
  • nearly 3,000 square kilometres of gill nets
  • 218 square kilometres of trawl nets
  • 75,000 square kilometres of purse seine nets

In addition, fishers lose over 25 million pots and traps and nearly 14 billion longline hooks each year.

Fisher in red gloves pulling a net into their boat
At the current pollution rate, fishing nets littering the ocean could cover the entire planet in 65 years. Shutterstock

These estimates cover only commercial fisheries, and don’t include the amount of fishing line and other gear lost by recreational fishers.

We also estimate that between 1.7% and 4.6% of all land-based plastic waste travels into the sea. This amount likely exceeds lost fishing gear.

However, fishing gear is designed to catch animals and so is generally understood as the most environmentally damaging type of plastic pollution in research to date.

Countries (in black) where interviews with fishers occurred. Fishers were surveyed from each of the seven key marine regions/continents of the world, excluding Antarctica. The number of surveys conducted for major gear types/fisheries are listed (bullet points) below each country name.

Harming Fishers And Marine Life

Nearly 700 species of marine life are known to interact with marine debris, many of which are near threatened. Australian and US research in 2016 found fishing gear poses the biggest entanglement threats to marine fauna such as sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and whales.

Other marine wildlife including sawfish, dugong, hammerhead sharks and crocodiles are also known to get entangled in fishing gear. Other key problematic items include balloons and plastic bags.

Lost fishing gear is not only an environmental risk, but it also has an economic impact for the fishers themselves. Every metre of lost net or line is a cost to the fisher – not only to replace the gear but also in its potential catch.

Additionally, many fisheries have already gone through significant reforms to reduce their environmental impact and improve the sustainability of their operations.

2% of fishing gear used worldwide gets lost at sea. Denise HardestyAuthor provided

Some losses are attributable to how gear is operated. For instance, bottom trawl nets – which can get caught on reefs – are lost more often that nets that don’t make contact with the sea floor.

The conditions of the ocean can also make a significant difference. For example, fishers commonly reported that bad weather and overcrowding contributes to gear losses. Conflicts between gears coming into contact can also result in gear losses, such as when towed nets cross drifting longlines or gillnets.

Where fish are depleted, fishers must expend more effort, operate in worse conditions or locations, and are more likely to come in contact with others’ gear. All these features increase losses.

Crab traps
Pots/traps such as these are used to catch crabs and lobsters. Shutterstock

What Do We Do About It?

We actually found lower levels of fishing gear losses in our current study than in a previous review of the historical literature on the topic. Technological improvements, such as better weather forecasts and improved marking and tracking of fishing gear may be reducing loss rates.

Incentives can further reduce losses resulting in ghost gear. This could include buyback programs for end-of-life fishing gear, reduced cost loans for net replacement, and waste receptacles in ports to encourage fishers to return used fishing gear.

Technological improvements and management interventions could also make a difference, such as requirements to mark and track gear, as well as regular gear maintenance and repairs.

Developing effective fishing management systems can improve food security, leave us with a healthier environment, and create more profitable businesses for the fishers who operate in it.The Conversation

Britta Denise Hardesty, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIROChris Wilcox, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIROJoanna Vince, Associate professor, University of Tasmania, and Kelsey Richardson, PhD Candidate, CSIRO

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

Megadroughts helped topple ancient empires. We’ve found their traces in Australia’s past, and expect more to come

Kathryn AllenUniversity of TasmaniaAlison O'DonnellThe University of Western AustraliaBenjamin I. CookColumbia UniversityJonathan PalmerUNSW Sydney, and Pauline GriersonThe University of Western Australia

Most Australians have known drought in their lifetimes, and have memories of cracked earth and empty streams, paddocks of dust and stories of city reservoirs with only a few weeks’ storage. But our new research finds over the last 1,000 years, Australia has suffered longer, larger and more severe droughts than those recorded over the last century.

These are called “megadroughts”, and they’re likely to occur again in coming decades. Megadroughts can last multiple decades – or even centuries – with occasional wet years offering only brief relief. Megadroughts can also be shorter periods of very extreme conditions.

We show megadroughts have occurred several times across every inhabited continent over the last two millennia. They’ve dealt profound damage to agriculture and water supplies, increased fire risk, and have even contributed to toppling civilisations.

Unless we incorporate the full potential of Australian drought into our planning, management and design, their impacts on society and the environment will likely worsen in coming decades.

The Role Of Climate Change

Instrumental records only go back so far. In Australia, they cover only the last 120 years or so. Scientists can gauge local, yearly climate further back in time, by deciphering clues written in tree rings, corals, and buried ice (known as ice cores), among other archives.

To look at previous occurrences of megadroughts, we consolidated findings drawn from such datasets and a range of other long-term records.

Historically, droughts have been defined by rainfall deficits, and these deficits can be largely attributed to complex interactions between oceans and the atmosphere over a long time. For example, decades-long La Niña conditions have been linked to medieval droughts in North and South America.

In contrast, research suggests human-caused climate change is now playing a more important role in amplifying drought conditions, as rising global temperatures increase evaporation.

There is some uncertainty in climate models about the effect of climate change on rainfall at local and regional scales. However, climate change is putting places that have previously endured megadroughts – such as Australia – at an increased risk of megadroughts in future.

Megadroughts And Collapsing Civilisations

Currently, parts of the United States – including Arizona, Nevada and Utah – are in the throes of a megadrought, lasting some two decades. Historically, megadroughts have profoundly impacted societies and environments.

In the American southwest, megadroughts in the late 1200s likely contributed to the desertion of the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Likewise, the Hohokam peoples relied heavily on a canal system, and this dependence in a time of severe and extended drought may have contributed to their decline over the 14th and 15th Centuries.

In Central America, a megadrought between 1149 and 1167 likely brought instability to the Toltec state. And a megadrought between 1514-1539 weakened the Aztec state just prior to Spanish conquest.

Europe and Asia have had their share of megadroughts, too. Research shows severe megadroughts in Asia in the 1300s and early 1400s quite likely helped cause the collapse of Cambodia’s vast Khmer Empire.

The Khmer Empire in Cambodia suffered decades-long dry periods. Fred Nassar/UnsplashCC BY

Megadroughts In Australia

While many Australians may remember the severity of the Millennium Drought between 1997 and 2009, we found this drought wasn’t actually particularly unusual. Megadroughts of the same or greater severity have occurred over the past 1,000 years across several parts of Australia, and were relatively common over much of eastern Australia.

This includes megadroughts between 1500 and the 1520s, and between the 1820s and 1840s. And while relatively short, a dry period between 1789 and 1795, coinciding with European invasion, included several years of severe drought. The year 1792 in particular was extremely dry over almost all of eastern Australia.

Western Australia’s wheat belt is currently experiencing a decline in rainfall. This, too, isn’t unusual compared to droughts there in the past. Tree rings in the region reveal that longer, more severe droughts occurred there six times in the last 700 years, including the years 1393-1407, 1755-1785, and 1889-1908.

Even in Tasmania, evidence suggests prolonged dry periods occurred in the latter part of the 16th Century, with a shorter but more severe downturn from 1670-1704.

We Need To Be Better Prepared

Water management in Australia has relied on short instrumental data. These do not capture the full range of variability in our rainfall.

This means, for example, that Australia’s infrastructure may be inadequately designed or managed to cope with major flood events or prolonged dry conditions.

Now, even relatively short but very dry periods can lead to major problems. We saw this recently in Tasmania in the summer of 2015 and 2016 when, after a dry winter and spring, water levels in major catchments were minimal and fires raged in the west. The Basslink cable, which connects Tasmania to the national grid, broke, resulting in the use of diesel power generation to keep power on in the state.

Future megadroughts will amplify the pressures on already degraded Australian ecosystems. We know from Australia’s recent past the harm relatively smaller droughts can impose on the environment, the economy, and our mental and physical health.

We must carefully consider whether current management regimes and water infrastructure are fit-for-purpose, given the projected increased frequency of megadroughts.

It’s difficult to plan effectively without fully understanding even natural variability. And this means better appreciating the data we have from archives such as tree rings, corals and ice cores – crucial windows to our distant past.The Conversation

Kathryn Allen, ARC Future Fellow, University of TasmaniaAlison O'Donnell, Adjunct Research Fellow, The University of Western AustraliaBenjamin I. Cook, Climate Scientist, Columbia UniversityJonathan Palmer, Research Fellow, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences., UNSW Sydney, and Pauline Grierson, Director, West Australian Biogeochemistry Centre; Professor School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia

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

A secretive legal system lets fossil fuel investors sue countries over policies to keep oil and gas in the ground – podcast

Fossil fuel investors can use an obscure legal mechanism found in many international trade agreements to sue countries if their projects are blocked. curraheeshutter via Shutterstock
Gemma WareThe Conversation and Daniel MerinoThe Conversation

A new barrier to climate action is opening up in an obscure and secretive part of international trade law, which fossil fuel investors are using to sue countries if policy decisions go against them.

In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we speak to experts about the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism and how it works. Many are worried that these clauses in international trade deals could jeopardise global efforts to save the climate – costing countries billions of dollars in the process.

ISDS clauses were first introduced into international trade agreements in the post-colonial period. Most of these treaties were between a developed and a developing country. “It was really intended in the first instance to protect the interests of multinational companies from the global north when they were operating in these newly decolonised parts of the world,” explains Kyla Tienhaara, an expert in ISDS and environmental governance at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

Yet Tienhaara says the use of ISDS has “morphed beyond all recognition” of the treaties’ original intentions, due to what she calls “creative lawyering” and the fact the system is stacked in favour of investors and against governments.

A looming concern is the chilling effect these clauses could have on countries’ decisions to phase out fossil fuels or take other action to protect the environment if investors decide to sue for compensation. In April, a summary report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change singled out ISDS clauses saying that they may “limit countries’ ability to adopt trade-related climate policies” and stick to their commitments under the 2015 Paris agreement.

In a recent study, Tienhaara and her colleagues estimated that countries could face up to US$340 billion in financial and legal risk from cancelling fossil fuel projects covered by ISDS clauses.

Some countries are more vulnerable than others because of the nature of the contracts they’ve entered into. Mozambique, with its large gas and coal reserves, is particularly so, explains Lea Di Salvatore, a PhD candidate at Nottingham University in the UK.

She analysed 29 of the country’s mega-projects for gas, coal and hydrocarbons and found that the vast majority are covered by ISDS clauses. This means that “the company can directly go and initiate an arbitration against Mozambique”, she says, if it feels a government policy has negatively affected its investment.

We hear what it’s like inside one of these arbitration rooms from Emilia Onyema, a professor of international commercial law at SOAS, University of London in the UK. “It’s a private process,” she explains. “The parties determine who the arbitrator is. They appoint the arbitrator. They pay the arbitrator. So they have more powers over the process than they would have in litigation.”

And we tell the story of one ISDS case launched against Italy by the British oil company, Rockhopper Exploration. In 2016, Italy banned oil drilling 12 nautical miles off its coast, which blocked Rockhopper’s exploration of the offshore Ombrina Mare field in the Adriatic Sea. Maria-Rita D'Orsogna, a US-based mathematician and leading campaigner against oil exploration in Abruzzo, explains what was at stake and what happened next.

Listen to the whole episode on The Conversation Weekly to find out about the fight back against ISDS, including moves to reform a big international trade treaty covering the fossil fuel industry and what countries are doing to limit their risk from ISDS climate arbitration.

This episode was produced by Gemma Ware and Mend Mariwany, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. The executive producer was Gemma Ware. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.

You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here. A transcript of this episode will be available soon.

You can listen to “The Conversation Weekly” via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation

Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation and Daniel Merino, Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

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

‘Astonishing’: global demand for exotic pets is driving a massive trade in unprotected wildlife

Este Kotze/AP
Freyja WattersUniversity of Adelaide and Phill CasseyUniversity of Adelaide

Global demand for exotic pets is increasing, a trend partly caused by social media and a shift from physical pet stores to online marketplaces.

The United States is one of the biggest markets for the wildlife trade. And our new research has identified an astonishing number of unregulated wild-caught animals being brought into the US – at a rate 11 times greater than animals regulated and protected under the relevant global convention.

Wildlife trade can have major negative consequences. It can threaten the wild populations from which animals and plants are harvested, and introduce novel invasive species to new environments. It can also lead to diseases transmitted from wildlife to humans and threaten the welfare of trafficked animals.

Tackling this problem requires an international effort – particularly by rich nations where the demand for exotic pets is greatest.

an owl perched on a piece of fake grass next to yellow chair and vine
Global demand for exotic pets is increasing. Pictured: a barred eagle-owl kept as a pet in Indonesia. Mast Irham/EPA.

Shining A Light On The Pet Market

Most live animals transported through the wildlife trade are destined for the global, multi-billion dollar exotic pet market. Captive breeding supplies a portion of this market, but many species are collected from the wild – often illegally.

Animals such as ottersslow lorises and galagos or “bushbabies” are frequently depicted on social media as cute, and with human-like feelings and behaviours. This helps create demand for such species as pets which drives both the illegal and legal wildlife trades.

Non-native animals frequently smuggled into Australia in the past, include the corn snake, leopard gecko and red-eared slider turtle. Reptiles and birds are among the most commonly trafficked species because they can be easily transported.

Species deemed at risk from international trade are regulated through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It aims to ensure sustainable and traceable legal international trade.

But the convention lists less than 10% of all described plants and terrestrial vertebrates, and less than 1% of all fish and invertebrate species. No international regulatory framework exists to monitor the trade of the many unlisted species.

Australia has rigorous regulations for exotic pet ownership and trade. Broadly, our native wildlife cannot be commercially exported.

However, Australia’s fauna is poached from the wild and illegally exported for the international pet market. Once the animal is smuggled out of Australia, its trade in recipient countries is often not monitored or restricted.

For example, research last year showed four subspecies of Australia’s shingleback lizard – one of which is endangered – were being illegally extracted from the wild and smuggled out of the country, to be sold across Asia, Europe and North America.

This lack of overseas regulation prompted the former Morrison government to push for 127 native reptile species targeted by international wildlife smugglers to be listed under CITES. They include blue tongue skinks and numerous gecko species.

But in the meantime, the global illegal wildlife trade continues. Our new research analysed the extent of this, by focusing on the movement of unlisted species to and from the US.

otter in a blue cage listed for sale on social media
Otter sold via Instagram in Indonesia. Instagram

What We Found

The US is one of the few countries that maintains detailed records of all declared wildlife trade, including species not listed under CITES.

We examined a decade of data on wild-harvested, live vertebrate animals entering the US. Most would have been headed for the pet trade. We found 3.6 times the number of unlisted species in US imports compared with CITES-listed species – 1,356 versus 378 species.

Overall, 8.84 million animals from unlisted species were imported – about 11 times more than animals from CITES-listed species. More than a quarter of unlisted species faced conservation threats – including those with declining populations and those threatened with extinction.

For example, we found a substantial trade of the unlisted Asian water dragon. These bright green lizards are native to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and southern China, and are considered vulnerable.

In the decade to 2018, more than 575,000 Asian water dragons were imported to the US from Vietnam. The species has been proposed for inclusion in CITES. But decades of unregulated global trade poses a major threat to the survival of native populations.

Green lizard on branch in forest
Unregulated global trade threatens the wild populations of the Asian water dragon. Wikimedia

How Do We Fix This?

Our study highlights the urgent need to monitor all traded wildlife species, not just those listed under CITES.

The biodiversity of life on Earth is under enormous pressure. Given this, and the other harms caused by the wildlife trade, this lack of regulation and monitoring is unacceptable.

For a species to be considered for listing under CITES, a national government must demonstrate that regulation is needed to prevent trade-related declines. But if trade in the species has never been monitored, how can that need be proven?

Sadly, the trade of many species is not formally regulated until it’s too late for their wild populations. Clearly, tighter regulation is needed to prevent this decline.

A critically endangered radiated tortoise recovering from capture by wildlife traffickers in Madagascar. Wildlife Conservation Society/AP

Traded wildlife predominantly flows from lower-income to higher-income countries. Many source countries do not possess the frameworks needed to monitor the harvest and export of unlisted species.

So what should be done? First, all nations should follow the lead of the US and record species-level data for all wildlife imported and exported. This information should be gathered as part of a standardised data management system.

Such a system would increase compliance with the rules and make the origin of wildlife easier to trace It would allow trade data to be shared and integrated between countries and allow timely assessment of species which may need further protection.

And second, affluent countries – where demand for exotic pets is largest – must take the lead on sustainable trade practices. This should include supporting supply countries and pushing for better data collection.

Such measures are vital to protecting both wildlife and human wellbeing.The Conversation

Freyja Watters, PhD candidate, University of Adelaide and Phill Cassey, Assoc Prof in Invasion Biogeography and Biosecurity, University of Adelaide

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

Dramatic Decline In Adelie Penguins Near Mawson

October 11, 2022
By Australian Antarctica Division
Long-term monitoring has revealed a 43% decline in a large Adélie penguin population off the East Antarctic coast, near Mawson research station, over the past decade.

The loss of some 154,000 breeding birds, breeding across 52 islands along the 100 km of coastline, is in stark contrast to other populations in East Antarctica, where there have been long-term increases or stable population trends (see Penguin Heaven).

It is also contrary to model predictions of a continued increase in this population following decades of sustained growth.

A decline in fledging survival during their first winter has exacerbated the speed of decline in the population of Adélie penguins off the Mawson coast. Fledglings have no parental supervision when they first enter the Southern Ocean. Photo: Louise Emmerson.

Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologists, Dr Louise Emmerson and Dr Colin Southwell, said the rate of decline is similar to that in Adélie penguin populations on the Antarctic Peninsula, which are subject to external pressures from fisheries, climate change and human activity.

However, the decline in the Mawson population is thought to have been triggered by changed environmental conditions, and then exacerbated by internal feedback processes within the population, rather than direct human-related pressures.

“We think this population decline was initially triggered by five years of extensive summer sea ice adjacent to the colony in the mid-2000s, which hampered access to the adults’ foraging areas and saw virtually no chicks survive,” Dr Emmerson said.

“The frequency of these unfavourable breeding conditions subsequently remained high, and fledgling survival also began to decrease. These two processes together resulted in a more rapid population decline than would be expected if they had been acting in isolation.”

Safety in numbers
Dr Emmerson said it’s possible that the smaller a population becomes, the harder it may be for individuals to survive, due to an increased risk from predators, or because smaller groups are not as good at navigating, foraging and locating prey. This is especially important for young fledglings with limited life experience.

“It may be that the old adage of safety in numbers is playing out for the fledglings in the vast and harsh Southern Ocean, although exactly why and how needs further investigation,” Dr Emmerson said.

“We estimate that this population has lost about 80,000 fledglings in a good breeding season, compared to the population peak in the early 2000s.

In the deep end
Adélie penguin fledglings are literally thrown in the deep end at about two months of age, when they leave the colony and enter the Southern Ocean for the first time, without parental supervision.

“I remember watching fledglings enter the water for the first time and they did this strange kind of breast stroke, as though they were trying to use their flippers to stand up. It was a completely new experience for them,” Dr Emmerson said.

“When they first enter the water they don’t know how to swim, they have no predator avoidance behaviour, so they are vulnerable to being eaten by leopard seals, and they’re not efficient at catching prey. They’re totally clueless about their marine environment, and because there are no adults to help them they have to learn quickly or they don’t survive.

“So while we don’t know exactly what’s driving the decline in fledgling survival in the Mawson area, the fact that there are less of them may compromise their chances of survival.”

Long-term monitoring
Dr Emmerson said the next step was to continue research to understand the drivers of fledgling survival during their first naïve winter journey at sea after they leave the colony, and ensure any resumption of fisheries activities in the area is managed carefully.

She said continued long-term monitoring across the environmental range where penguins breed was critical for early detection of population decline and for understanding population changes.

Long-term monitoring of Adélie penguins by Australia, near Casey, Davis and Mawson research stations, is also critical to decisions made by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), in managing krill fisheries and in considering the protection of terrestrial and marine areas.

As this study shows, long-term monitoring allows scientists to uncover intrinsic factors involved in population decline that may be concealed by population changes caused by year-to-year variability in environmental conditions. This is critical to informing predictive population models that tend to focus on environmental drivers of population change.

“Model predictions based on external environmental factors alone may fail to accurately predict future population change and/or underestimate the real impacts of climate change on species’ populations,” Dr Emmerson said.

“Whether this Mawson penguin population stabilises, continues to decline, or recovers, remains to be seen. It is clear from this study though that where possible, we are better off preventing impacts in the first place, or trying to alleviate them before population decline is well-established, or the processes causing the decline become confounding and result in rapid population declines.”

The research is published in Global Change Biology today - ''Environment-triggered demographic changes cascade and compound to propel a dramatic decline of an Antarctic seabird metapopulation''.

Commission For The Conservation Of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) 2022 Meeting

WG-IMAF-2022 - Full Name; Working Group on Incidental Mortality Associated with Fishing. Location: Hobart, Australia
Meeting Start Date/Time: Monday, 10 October 2022. Meeting End Date/Time: Friday, 14 October 2022

SC-CAMLR-41 - Forty-first Meeting of the Scientific Committee
Location: Hobart, Australia. Meeting Start Date/Time: Monday, 24 October 2022. Meeting End Date/Time: Friday, 28 October 2022

A deadly disease has driven 7 Australian frogs to extinction – but this endangered frog is fighting back

Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided
Matthijs HollandersSouthern Cross University and David NewellSouthern Cross University

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

Frogs are among the world’s most imperilled animals, and much of the blame lies with a deadly frog disease called the amphibian chytrid fungus. The chytrid fungus has caused populations of over 500 frog species worldwide to plummet, and rendered seven Australian frogs extinct.

Our new research, however, has identified an endangered frog species that seems to have developed a natural resistance to the disease, after having previously succumbed to it in prior decades: Fleay’s barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi).

Fleay’s barred frog grows up to 9 centimetres long, and lives near gravelly streams in the rainforests of northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland. It is not the only frog species largely resistant to the disease, with a precious few others also known to survive it, such as common mistfrogs and cascade treefrogs.

We speculate that other frog species worldwide may be on a similar trajectory. There is currently no cure for the chytrid fungus, but understanding how Fleay’s barred frog and others are fighting back may prove instrumental in helping us bring more species back from the brink.

A stream in a northern NSW rainforest, a typical habitat of the Fleay’s barred frog. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided

The Killer Fungus

The amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) causes a skin disease and breached Australian borders in the 1970s. Since then, the disease has caused populations of dozens of species to severely decline, and has driven seven to extinction, including the gastric brooding frogs and southern day frogs.

It wasn’t until 1998 that two independent research teams discovered the fungal pathogen was to blame. This unfortunately meant much of the damage was already done prior to its discovery.

Cascade tree frog (Litoria pearsoniana), another species that initially declined due to chytrid fungus but has since largely recovered. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided
This photo shows a cascade treefrog on top of a red-eyed treefrog (Litoria chloris) and shows a potential mode of disease transmission. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided

Similarly, Fleay’s barred frog wasn’t distinguished as being a separate species of barred frog before the chytrid fungus caused its populations to decline across its range in the 1980s. It became extinct in at least three places it once lived.

But our research suggests the Fleay’s barred frog is bouncing back. Over four years, we conducted intensive field research at several rainforest streams in northern New South Wales to investigate the prevalence and intensity of infection within Fleay’s barred frog populations.

We found while some frogs with high-level infections died, most seemed capable of clearing their infections.

Frogs Are Fighting Back

Surveys in the late 1990s detected up to 15 Fleay’s barred frogs at the sites we studied. But during our investigations, we regularly found close to 100. Moreover, other researchers have noted that these frogs are relatively common across many rainforest streams, suggesting populations of Fleay’s barred frog have recovered.

We implanted 686 frogs with microchips and tested frogs for the chytrid fungus via a skin swab every time they were captured. This allowed us to follow these frogs over four years to learn about the population’s death rates and infection dynamics.

The Fleay’s barred frog was once common across the Border Ranges. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided
Three-toed snake-tooth skink (Coeranoscincus reticulatus), another endangered species living in the Gondwana rainforests. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided

Fortunately, male Fleay’s barred frogs don’t travel far from home and are readily recaptured – we located some frogs more than 20 times.

We confirmed the prevalence of the chytrid fungus and the intensity of its infection was influenced by environmental conditions. Specifically, it was greatest with lower temperatures and higher rainfall.

This may help explain why we have witnessed mass death events in Australian frogs during recent wet winters along the eastern seaboard.

Fleay’s barred frog is also called the silverblue-eyed barred frog. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided

In addition to investigating the deadliness of a chytrid fungus infection, we also estimated the rates with which individuals were gaining and clearing infections.

We found infections were poor predictors of death. Only the highest pathogen loads were associated with an increase in rate of deaths, but frogs were very rarely infected with such high burdens.

Instead, frogs were much more likely to clear their infections than to gain them, ultimately leading to a low infection prevalence in the populations. On average, just one in five frogs were likely to be infected at any given time.

For those infected, pathogen loads were among the lowest we observed in rainforest frog communities. Some of the other species, such as the cascade treefrog, stony creek frog and giant barred frog, carried loads that were 30% higher.

Male stony creek frogs (Litoria wilcoxii) turn bright yellow in the breeding season. Matthijs HollandersAuthor provided

How This Could Help Save Frogs

So why can the frogs now deal with a disease that decimated populations just a few decades ago? This question is unfortunately still hard to answer.

Given their low pathogen loads and high rates of clearing them, we believe Fleay’s barred frogs have developed natural resistance against the chytrid fungus, meaning their immune systems are actively combating infections. We further speculate that other species worldwide may be doing the same.

promising avenue of conservation research is to use the genetic information of some species to help others survive threats in the wild, such as disease or climate change. Fleay’s barred frogs may carry just the genes we’re looking for.

We now hope to use these resistant frogs for a reintroduction program in nearby Wollumbin (Mount Warning) in NSW, where the species disappeared from in the 1990s. This approach may help the ecosystem of this iconic World Heritage site to thrive.The Conversation

Matthijs Hollanders, PhD candidate, Southern Cross University and David Newell, Senior Lecturer, School of Environment, Science & Engineering, Southern Cross University

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

The Nord Stream breaches are a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities in undersea infrastructure

Claudio BozziDeakin University

On the night of September 26, near the end of the calm season on the Baltic, a broiling kilometre-wide circle disturbed the face of the sea and a huge mass of methane erupted into the air. The gas formed a cloud that crossed Europe, in what’s considered the greatest single release of this potent greenhouse gas ever recorded.

It was caused by four breaches of Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, located in or near the territorial seas of Denmark and Sweden. Seismologists detected explosions at a depth of 70-90 metres on the seabed. These were not earthquakes.

Danish, Swedish and German authorities have reported that the explosions were a deliberate act, equivalent to the use of 500 kilograms of TNT.

The bubbling surface of the Baltic is a stark visual image of fossil fuel consumption changing the world’s climate. Methane has over 25 times the global warming effect of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide, and is a crucial target for combating climate change.

It also highlights the vulnerability of undersea pipelines and undersea infrastructure in general, of which Australia has a significant network.

Wasted Emissions

The explosions have had no direct economic or energy consequences. Nord Stream 1 stopped operating at the beginning of September following gradual supply reductions during the summer.

Nord Stream 2 was never launched as Germany refused to certify it following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Europe was not counting on the resumption of supplies from either pipeline.

While the pipelines were not transmitting gas, they contained methane gas to maintain pressure.

The amount of gas released is hard to quantify. Estimates suggest that roughly 300,000 tonnes of methane (or the equivalent of 7.5 million tonnes of carbon) has probably been released into the atmosphere, making it the largest release of methane in a single event (and over twice as large as the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak in California).

That tonnage represents around 10% of Germany’s annual methane output, or one third of Denmark’s total annual gas emissions, or the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of one million cars. Nord Stream, however, is a wasted emission without either social benefit or productivity gains.

The leak is a reminder of the problem of “fugitive” methane, which comprises the leak, loss, escape and emission of gas from active or abandoned industrial sites.

While emissions from beef and rice production are the main culprits of fugitive emissions, oil and gas facilities also leak a significant amount of methane, as do activities such as fracking, coal mining and oil extraction. CSIRO estimates global oil and gas industries emit between 69 and 88 million tonnes of methane each year.

Australia’s Undersea Infrastructure Network

Critical undersea infrastructure plays a vital role in the global economy. For example, the fibre-optic cable network is the unseen lifeblood of globalisation, consisting of around 1.1 million kilometres of cables carrying 99% of global data.

When we talk about data flows and digital commodities we are, in fact, referring to the transmission of communications through these undersea cables. The stability of the global economy and the wealth of multi-national corporations depend on the integrity of these cables and on the uninterrupted connectivity they provide.

Undersea pipelines delivering oil and gas from one country or state to another form the material basis of energy markets. Australia’s offshore energy pipelines include the 740km-long Tasmanian Gas Pipeline, 300km of which is sub-sea, as well as the Gorgon (140km), Scarborough (280km), Pluto (180km), Browse (400km), and numerous others.

Undersea power cables are a rapidly developing infrastructure. The proposed undersea and underground Marinus power cable link will connect Tasmania and Victoria.

Harnessing the potential of offshore wind (now one of the largest energy investments globally) is being realised in Australian projects such as Star of the South. Meanwhile, Sun Cable aims to supply renewable energy produced in Australia to Singapore via 4,200km subacqueous cable.

While speculative, such projects represent aspects of the green power revolution which will drive emissions reductions, and which are likely to become more common. Ensuring the resilience of these systems against malicious digital and physical threats is a priority.

System Failures And Hostile Agents

The dependence of society and the economy on the reliability of this infrastructure is underappreciated.

The integration between cables and pipelines and the national and international markets they service is so tight, even the slightest disruption could inflict disproportionate economic damage.

These systems are so complex and closely integrated that their failures have consequences that traverse physical and national borders. This represents a significant challenge to ocean infrastructure governance.

System failure may occur because cables and pipelines are prone to accidental damage by ships’ anchors, trawl net fishing, and other undersea activities such as dredging. As the Nord Stream pipeline incident shows, they are also vulnerable to intentional hostile attack – both physical and cyber.

Hostile agents may exploit the fact that the sea is an opaque realm, one that’s difficult to operate in and defend. It, therefore, provides an effective shield against detection and subsequent prosecution.

Nord Stream was attacked in one of the busiest and the most surveilled seas in the world – the Baltic, in close proximity to the Danish military base of Bornholm Island. This clearly exposes the vulnerabilities of undersea infrastructure: it enables attackers to get close to targets undetected.

Cables and pipelines are governed by both national and international law. However, there are security gaps in international waters, where responsibility is ambiguously shared between corporations and government.

The lack of clarity gives companies little incentive to invest in security, or cooperate with government, increasing their vulnerability to attack.

The privatisation of cables and pipelines has resulted in cost-effective practices being adopted to reduce operating costs. But this has been achieved by reducing maintenance and surveillance.

Undersea infrastructure will continue to be vital to world trade and social cohesion. The growing demand for bandwidth and the need for energy security makes cables and pipelines both more crucial and vulnerable. Nord Stream highlights the need for resilient systems to limit the risk of accidents, and has given greater impetus to transition from fossil to renewable energy.The Conversation

Claudio Bozzi, Lecturer in Law, Deakin University

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

Shifting ocean currents are pushing more and more heat into the Southern Hemisphere’s cooler waters

Moninya RoughanUNSW Sydney and Junde Li

The oceans absorb more than 90% of all extra heat trapped by the emissions we’ve produced by burning fossil fuels. This heat is enormous. It’s as if we exploded an atom bomb underwater, every second of every day.

The ocean isn’t warming at the same rate everywhere. We know the heat is concentrated in the fast, narrow currents that flow along the east coasts of the world’s continents and funnel warm water from the tropics down towards the poles.

In the Southern Hemisphere, these currents – known as the western boundary currents – are warming faster than the global average at their southern limits, creating ocean warming hotspots.

Until now, we haven’t known exactly why. These western boundary currents are particularly important in the Southern Hemisphere, which is more than 80% ocean compared to just 60% for the Northern Hemisphere.

Our new research has found a vital part of the puzzle: strong easterly winds in the mid-latitudes are moving south, driving the western boundary currents further south and leading to faster ocean warming in these areas.

What Are These Currents And Why Do They Matter?

These streams of warm water are like fast-flowing rivers in the oceans. They flow rapidly in a narrow band along the western side of the world’s major ocean basins, passing densely populated coastlines in South Africa, Australia and Brazil where hundreds of millions of people live.

These currents often play a role in regulating local climates. Think of the most well known of these currents, the Northern Hemisphere’s Gulf Stream, which has for millennia ensured Europe is much warmer than it would otherwise be given its latitude.

In the Southern Hemisphere, we have three major sub-tropical western boundary currents, the Agulhas Current in the Indian Ocean, the East Australian Current in the Pacific Ocean and the Brazil Current in the Atlantic Ocean.

global ocean currents simulation
Ocean currents tend to move in very large circles, with currents running down the western boundaries ferrying heat from the tropics. NASACC BY-SA

In recent decades, these currents have become hotspots for ocean warming, carrying larger and larger amounts of heat south. Since 1993, the East Australian Current has moved southward at around 33 kilometres per decade, while the Brazil Current is moving south by around 46 kilometres per decade. The currents send heat and moisture into the atmosphere as they flow. In their southernmost reaches, the heat they carry displaces the colder ocean and warms it rapidly. These areas of the ocean are warming two to three times faster than the global average.

As the currents carry more heat energy, they also generate more ocean eddies – large rotating spirals of water spinning off from the main current. If you’ve looked closely at the way a fast flowing stream flows, you’ll see small eddies forming and dissolving all the time.

Why do these eddies matter? Because they’re the way heat actually ends up in the cold seas. As the eddies get faster and more loaded with heat, they act as path-breakers, carrying heat further south and eventually into the deep ocean. This is why NASA is soon to launch a new satellite to track these eddies, responsible for up to half of all heat transfer to the deep.

Our team have a research cruise planned for September next year aboard RV Investigator, Australia’s research vessel, to explore eddies under the path of this new satellite. This will shed new light on eddy processes in the warming ocean.

How Do The Winds Fit In?

Western boundary currents are driven by large-scale winds blowing across ocean basins.

You might have heard of the trade winds. These are the winds traders and mariners used for centuries to go from east to west, taking advantage of winds blowing constantly from the southeast across the tropics and subtropics.

Further south, the strongest winds are the prevailing westerlies, better known by sailors as the Roaring Forties. These westerly winds carry cold fronts and rain, and often stray north to dump rain over Australia.

These westerlies can change track over time, shifting northwards and southwards, depending on a pattern known as the Southern Annular Mode.

At present, this belt of strong westerly winds has strengthened and moved southward in what’s known as the mode’s positive phase. Since 1940, this climate pattern has increasingly favoured this positive phase, which tends to bring drier conditions to Australia.

When we analysed changes in the tropical trade winds over the past three decades, we found they too had shifted poleward 18 km per decade since 1993.

So what does this mean? The trade winds have been pushed further south while the Southern Annual Mode is increasing. As they move south, they drive the western boundary currents further southward.

Even though these currents are carrying ever-warmer water southwards from the tropics, they have not actually become stronger. Rather, they’ve become less stable in their southern regions as they’ve elongated. As the currents are pushed south, they transfer heat energy into the cold seas through chaotic eddies mixing the warmer water with the cold. These eddies aren’t small – they’re between 20 and 200 kilometres wide.

The East Australian current
This visualisation shows the Eastern Australian Current and eddy currents spinning off it. NASACC BY-SA

What Does This Mean For People And Nature?

Western boundary currents have long played a key role in stabilising our climate, by carrying heat southwards and moderating coastal climates. As these currents warp and become less predictable, they will change how heat is distributed, how gases are dissolved in seawater, and how nutrients are spread across the oceans. In turn, this will mean major changes to local weather patterns and marine ecosystems.

More intense eddies are likely to warm our coastal oceans, too, by moving warm waters closer to shore.

For many people, these currents are out of sight, out of mind. They won’t stay that way. As these vital currents change, they will change the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people who live along the coasts of South Africa, Australia and Brazil. The Conversation

Moninya Roughan, Professor in Oceanography, UNSW Sydney and Junde Li, Postdoctoral research associate

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

The boab trees of the remote Tanami desert are carved with centuries of Indigenous history – and they’re under threat

Sue O'ConnorAuthor provided
Sue O'ConnorAustralian National UniversityBrenda GarstoneIndigenous Knowledge, and Jane BalmeThe University of Western Australia

Australia’s Tanami desert is one of the most isolated and arid places on Earth. It’s a hard place to access and an even harder place to survive.

But sprinkled across this vast expanse of desert, sweeping for thousands of kilometres across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, are some of the oldest and most incredible stories of human life and settlement of our ancient continent.

It takes the shape of art in the bark of iconic and bountiful boab trees.

Our newly published research looks at 12 examples of these carved trees across the Tanami desert. This artwork tells the incredible story of the Indigenous Traditional Owners who have long called the Tanami home.

Sadly, after lasting centuries if not millennia, this incredible artwork is now in danger of being lost.

We are in a race against time to document and preserve this invaluable art.

Art In The Bark

The Australian boab or bottle tree (Adansonia gregorii) is an iconic tree naturally found only in a restricted area of northwestern Australia.

Boabs are an important economic species for First Nations Australians. The pith, seeds and young roots are all eaten, and the inner bark of the roots used to make string. First Nations Australians also used parts of the boab for medicine.

While the culinary and health attributes of boabs are well known, less well known is that many of these trees are culturally significant, carved with images and symbols hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of years ago. Australian boabs have never been successfully dated. They are often said to live for more than a thousand years, but this is based on the ages obtained from baobab trees in South Africa.

These carved images may be hundreds or thousands of years old. Lewis FieldAuthor provided

Some hint of the great age of the boabs can be gleaned from the heritage-listed “Mermaid tree” on the Kimberley coast at Careening Bay. “HMC Mermaid 1820” was carved into the tree during Phillip Parker King’s second voyage.

At the time of carving, the girth of the Mermaid tree was measured at 8.8 metres. Today, more than 200 years on, the inscription is still clear and the trunk circumference has increased to about 12 metres.

Now, modern pastoral land clearance and bushfires are having a toll on the oldest of the boabs. There is some urgency to record this cultural and artistic archive before the ancient trees die.

Too Often Overlooked

The earliest recordings of carvings on boab trees were made by the British artist and explorer, Thomas Baines, during the North Australian Expedition (1855–56) led by Augustus Gregory.

During the journey, Baines made several sketches of the Australian boab tree, including with Indigenous carved designs.

Figures Painted on Rocks and Carved on a Gouty Stem Tree, Thomas Baines (1820–1875) Collection of the Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, KewCC BY-NC-SA

Despite this early interest, little more was documented about carved boab trees until Ian Crawford wrote The Art of the Wandjina in 1968.

Crawford, a historian at the Western Australian Museum, was primarily engaged in recording the rock art paintings in the Kimberley region. However, on his travels he noted seeing ancient carved boab trees. The Traditional Owners accompanying him made fresh carvings using their metal skinning knives on some of the trees near their campsite.

Almost 20 year later, historian Darrell Lewis stumbled across the Tanami Indigenous carved boabs while searching for a boab tree engraved with the letter “L” marked by the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt on his final expedition, during which he and his team disappeared without a trace.

Our Race Against The Clock

We and our colleagues are now recording and investigating the carved trees.

In July last year, academics and Traditional Owners began to record the boab trees with carvings in the remote northern Tanami Desert.

This area of the Tanami is extremely inaccessible. Finding and checking the trees was a task in itself.

We set up camp among the sand dunes and spent seven days looking for boabs. Although the Tanami is sandy, sharp stakes from burnt out acacia shrubs took their toll. We often spent the best part of the day changing and repairing tyres, or digging the four-wheel drives out of washaways and sand rills.

Carved trees
The trees were found in very remote parts of the desert. Lewis FieldAuthor provided

Once we spotted a boab in the remote distance it was safer to leave the vehicle and set off on foot. We found and recorded 12 carved boabs, but there are hundreds more trees visible on Google Earth which remain to be checked.

Most of the carved boabs recorded on the Tanami trip feature snakes. Indigenous oral tradition describes a major Dreaming track, King Brown Snake Dreaming (Lingka), which begins near Broome and travels east across the Kimberley region of WA before passing into the Northern Territory. Our survey area was located along this track.

Scattered around the base of the larger boabs we found stone artefacts and broken grinding stones, remnant of past First Nations campsites.

Stone artefacts were found near the carved boab trees. Sue O'ConnorAuthor provided

The next step in our work is to continue searching for these carved boabs in the coming dry season, and to get radiocarbon dates to establish the age of some of the largest boabs.

These remarkable Australian trees help tell the story of First Nations Australians and are the source of a rich cultural heritage. Through our work and partnership with the Traditional Owners we are rediscovering these Australian stories before they are gone forever. The Conversation

Sue O'Connor, Distinguished Professor, School of Culture, History & Language, Australian National UniversityBrenda Garstone, CEO, Yura Yungi Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous Knowledge, and Jane Balme, Professor Emerita of Archaeology, The University of Western Australia

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 -
Profile (issue 557):  Youth Up Front

Telephone: 02 9986 3339

The Northern Beaches Business Education Network Inc., now renamed in 2022 as Youth Up Front, celebrates its 30th year in 2023. Residents may be familiar with the annual Careers Expo, the Work Placement Program for both Employers and Youth or even participate in the annual Golf Day fundraiser, but did you know Youth Up Front have also been running a Canine Assisted Learning Program?

The name change recognises what is at the core of this organisation - putting young peoples needs first.

Youth Up Front is a registered Australian charity that helps young people transition from adolescence to adulthood. Youth Up Front have inspired more than 100,000 students over more than two decades.

Youth Up Front improves the lives of children by providing outreach and vocational programmes, mentoring, case worker and personal development support.

This Issue we share an overview for our Youth and their Parents - and for all who want to invest in this charity so it is sustained into the future, whether by donation, exhibiting at the Careers Expo, or getting involved in the Work Placement Program or any of the activities on offer.

Self-compassion is the superpower year 12 students need for exams … and life beyond school

Giulia Bertelli/UnsplashCC BY
Madeleine FerrariAustralian Catholic University

This week, year 12 students in New South Wales will begin their final exams, with students in other states soon to follow.

This can be one of the most stressful times in a students’ life. It can also be very stressful for parents trying to support their children.

But there is a superpower in the arsenal of every year 12 student that can be harnessed to manage this stress. This superpower fuels resilience, not only for exams, but for any difficult situation they may be faced with across their lifespan. It’s called self-compassion.

I am a clinical psychologist who specialises in self-compassion. This is how you can use it, both for yourself and for your kids.

What Is Is Self-Compassion?

The most enduring relationship we have is the the one we have with ourselves.

A figure holding up a heart.
Self-compassion means talking to yourself like you would talk to a friend. Nick Fewings/UnsplashCC BY

This relationship shapes how we think, feel and behave to such an extent that often we are not even aware of it. We may think being hard or critical on ourselves pushes us to achieve results. But research shows this can lead to self-doubt, avoidance of hard tasks, higher risk of psychological illness and poor resilience.

In contrast, self-compassion encourages us to feel comfortable in our own skin. It allows us to generate our own feelings of warmth, reassurance, soothing and liking who we are.

What Does It Look Like?

Difficult moments, like an unexpected exam question, are a ripe breeding ground for self-criticism. You may be familiar with thoughts like, “I’m not good enough, I can’t do this, I should have worked harder, I’m going to fail, I am a failure.” These self-critical thoughts are almost addictive – when they pop up it is easy to fixate on them and spiral into panic or avoidance.

In contrast, picture a friend sitting the same exam and getting the same unexpected question. This is a good friend who you really care about. If you could say something to them in that moment, it’s probably easy to think of supportive words. Such as,

I know this is hard, but you can do this. Your best is good enough. This one exam will not define your life, even if you get this wrong. I still think you’re a wonderful person.

Self-compassionate responses are more likely to make us feel confident, safer and therefore resilient. If we’re feeling this way, it will likely be easier to at least attempt the question rather than give up. It it is easy to draw on compassionate wisdom for our friends. But why don’t we say these things to ourselves?

Our Tricky Brains

We don’t because we have a “tricky brain”.

We like to think of ourselves as sensible and rational, but the brain is actually a faulty piece of machinery. The brain is hardwired, through evolution, to focus on threat.

Noticing threat, and triggering the flight or fight response, is what kept our ancestors alive when they were faced with an aggressive cave man or attack from a sabre tooth tiger.

Today, threats tend to be less extreme: like not getting the score we want in a test or not having the career pathway we might like. But our mind and body still react in the same way as if we are facing a sabre tooth tiger, flooding our body with adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol.

The (Many) Advantages Of Self-Compassion

Treating ourselves with the same kindness and support as we would a good friend comes with a plethora of mental health benefits.

Notebook with message, 'am I good enough?'
Our brains are hardwired to detect threats … and be tough on ourselves. HelloI'mNik/UnsplashCC BY

It is associated with greater psychological well-being and a lower risk of developing symptoms of poor mental health.

It leads to better stress-management and boosts motivation to study for exams, often contributing to better grades. Self-compassion gives us the bravery to try things we may fail at, because we can take bigger chances if we know we won’t beat ourselves up if we fall short. And sometimes, as with more study, these chances and extra effort pay off.

Self-compassion can also weaken the link between perfectionism and depression. Perfectionism involves high standards and high levels of self-criticism and which can lead to depressive symptoms, especially when we fall short of our goals. But self-compassion may enable perfectionists to have high standards and be motivated to do well, without experiencing the mental health cost.

For example, in the lead up to an exam, having high standards and wanting to achieve can motivate us to study. But during and after the exam, this perfectionism can turn into self-criticsm which places us at risk of feeling low and unmotivated.

If we are compassionate with ourselves, we can normalise how tough exams are, and show unconditional positive regard for ourselves no matter the outcome. These compassionate ways of thinking can help protect us from depression symptoms.

How Can We Learn And Teach Self-Compassion?

Some of us tend to be more self-compassionate than others. But if you’re not naturally a very self-compassionate person, there is good news. Research suggests you can learn to do it.

Here are some ways to approach it, both for yourselves and your kids:

  • Check yourself: before talking with your child about self-compassion, consider how you treat yourself when under stress. Do you notice when your self-critic is triggered? It is hard to be genuine when encouraging someone else to be self-compassionate if you are not.

  • Model self-compassion: when you make an error, try replacing “I’m so stupid I let this happen” with “I’m upset about this and that’s okay – anyone would feel this way in this situation”. Talk to yourself in a soft, calm tone. Whether you say it aloud or even just think it, your behaviour in that moment will change, and your kids will see this

  • Talk about it: start a conversation with your child about their relationship with themselves. You could start with: “what do you tend to say to yourself or feel about yourself during exams?” or “what effect does this have on you?”

  • Help them spot self-criticism: encourage your child to notice when self-criticism pops up. Give the self-criticsm a name such as “Voldemort” or the “angry voice”. Say, “When you notice Voldemort is hanging around, gently ask yourself, what would you say to a good friend or a ten-year-old version of yourself in this situation?” This simple question is a powerful way to tap into the compassionate wisdom we all carry

  • Give yourself a hug: to help calm yourself, give yourself a hug. Either wrap your arms around yourself or hold your hand on your heart or chest and notice the warmth. Research tells us we get a flood of oxytocin - the body’s “love drug” – and relax when we are hugged by someone we trust. Our brain and body has an almost identical reaction when we hug ourselves. Use as a this short-cut to trigger some feelings of self-compassion.

And Don’t Forget This

Self-compassion is not something you master once, and then move on from. It is a lifelong journey of practising and learning. Sometimes, especially when we are busy or stressed, it will drop off and we may need reminding of it’s superpower.

As a self-compassion researcher, I talk, write, think, debate and practice self-compassion daily. Yet I still find myself listening to Voldemort at times. This is part of living with a “tricky brain”. But there is a more self-compassionate option. And if we take it, the science says we will be more resilient and more likely to accomplish our goals.The Conversation

Madeleine Ferrari, Clinical Psychology Lecturer , Australian Catholic University

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

The Anne Kantor Young Women Environmentalist Fellowship 2023: Applications Now Open

The Anne Kantor Young Women Environmentalists Fellowship program provides on-the-job training to equip and encourage new voices in Australia's future policy and democratic debates.  

The Australia Institute runs two Fellowship programs: The Anne Kantor Fellowship (General) and the Anne Kantor Young Women Environmentalists Fellowship.

In 2023 there will be three Young Women Environmentalist Fellowships available. Two Fellowships will be with the Australia institute undertaking research and advocacy work in our Canberra office. 

The third Fellowship is delivered in partnership with the Tasmanian Independent Science Council and located in our Tasmanian Office. This role provides secretariat duties for the Science Council in addition to the work of the Tasmanian branch of the Australia Institute. Our work in Tasmania focuses on democracy and accountability, marine governance, climate change, environmental and economic policy. 

The objectives of the program are to:

  • provide Fellows with a unique opportunity to gain on the job training in research, advocacy, and media and communications with research, environmental, climate change or other advocacy-based organisations
  • create an experienced pool of Fellows with the skills and experience to effectively advocate for change
  • establish a pipeline of new voices to contribute to Australia's future policy and democratic debates
  • build relationships and drive future collaboration with partner organisations and other stakeholders

Applications for the 2023 Anne Kantor Young Women Environmentalist Fellowship program close on 31st October.  

For further information on how to apply please visit

Anne Kantor Fellows receive:

  • Support to develop skills and gain experience in public policy and advocacy at both the Australia Institute and/or at a partner organisation.
  • Mentoring from Australia Institute staff who will offer their knowledge and experience and provide advice to guide and support the Fellow during the program.
  • On the job training in areas such as economics, advocacy, media and communications, and NFP governance.
  • Networking opportunities and membership of the Australia Institute Alumni.

Applications for the 2023 Anne Kantor Young Women Environmentalist Fellowship are open until 31st October 2022. For further information on how to apply please visit

The Anne Kantor Fellowship program will ensure Anne's legacy endures long into the future through the terrific young leaders supported by this program. ~ the Australia Institute team

School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some uncertainty. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at:


Local Students To Shine As Featured Artists In 2022 Schools Spectacular: 'Creating The Magic'!

2022 Schools Spectacular Featured Artists

The 46 Featured Artists for this year’s Schools Spectacular, ‘Creating the Magic’, have been announced and have started rehearsals for the Spec shows at Qudos Bank Arena in November.   This includes local students Maddie Stead from Narrabeen and Billy Lowe from Beacon Hill. Billy is also the youngest of the Featured Artists in this year’s Schools Spectacular. 

Schools Spectacular Creative Director Sonja Sjolander said the young stars from NSW public schools created a buzz when they recently came together as a group for the first time.  

“The excitement and anticipation among our young artists was absolutely palpable. They were bursting with energy and pride, and there is already much camaraderie between them,” Ms Sjolander said. 

Schools Spectacular is the largest variety event in the world and showcases the creative talents of NSW public school students. It is produced by the Arts Unit at the NSW Department of Education.  

The Featured Artists range in age from 10 to 18 and will perform as singers, dancers and musicians alongside a 2,100-voice choir, 2,200 dancers, a 100-piece symphony orchestra, stage bands, a signing choir, specialist ensembles and vocational education and training crews. More than 600 teachers and school staff are involved in the coordination and rehearsals of the School Spec extravaganza. 

The young stars come from all parts of NSW, including Abbotsford, Annandale, Beacon Hill, Beecroft, Bourkelands, Braefield, Bungendore, Burraneer Bay, Candelo, Carlingford, Earlwood, East Corrimal, East Maitland, Edensor Park, Grafton, Hamilton South, Harrington Park, Heathcote, Hornsby, Kurraba Point, Lane Cove, Lindfield, Long Jetty, Maraylya, Narrabeen, Penrith, Sapphire Beach, Shell Cove, Springwood, Strathfield South, Tallawong, Turramurra, Winmalee and Yass.   

“These incredibly talented young people can’t wait to perform in front of a large arena audience,” Ms Sjolander said.  

“For many of them, it’s their first time stepping into the spotlight after the challenges of the past few years. A lot of work will be done to support them with their wellbeing and their confidence as well as their artistry. It will be a big moment for them”.

All up 19 local schools are participating in the 2022 Schools Spectacular. Now in its 39th year, the Schools Spectacular is Australia's longest-running annual arena variety show. It's exciting this showcase will be back at the Qudos Bank Arena after two years of cancellations due to Covid can return to being live on stage. 

With a 2022 theme of 'Creating the Magic', this remarkable annual event celebrates youth, education, culture, diversity and young Australian talent and will feature over 5,000 students from across New South Wales public schools.

This week a few insights from, about and by Maddie and Billy, Featured Artists!

D.O.B: 12/18/2004 
School: Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Senior Campus 
Year: 12 

For the last four years I have had the incredible opportunity to share my music with the community while getting paid by busking and performing gigs at various locations around the Northern Beaches and wider Sydney. Busking has had a profound impact on my development of personal musical style and performance, whilst building up a massive amount of resilience within my musical journey. Busking has shown me that people love music and has allowed me to connect with so many different and wonderful people. 

I've been singing and playing piano at church since I was 7, which has immensely shaped my love for music. It's where I first saw the joy and connection music can bring. My mum is one of the main reasons for this. Whenever I watched her sing, I could see how deeply she felt about the words she was saying, and how she could share that feeling with others through her voice. 

My parents have always been an incredible support system for me, driving me (sometimes for hours) to gigs, auditions, camps, performances and any opportunities that would allow me to develop and share my voice.  When I was younger I used to do dance lessons, but I was always a singer. I still remember being sent to the back of the room in the middle of my jazz dance to ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry, because I was singing when I was supposed to be dancing. So naturally my parents decided to put me into musical theatre classes so that I could sing and dance without getting into trouble. I still love dance and the art of performance in any form, being part of ballet, jazz, hip-hop, character, and musical theatre dance classes has taught me the importance of putting on a show when performing, it showed me that you don't have to sing in order to connect to an audience. 

Being part of school bands from year 3-10 playing the alto saxophone has also been an incredible experience. I would hear songs naturally progress, improving week by week, eventually into a masterpiece that would give me goosebumps as I played. This showed me the power and importance of dedication, passion and practice in crafting an emotionally moving performance. 

Previous involvement in Schools Spectacular?

Yes In 2017, 2018 and 2019 I was part of the mass choir.

How do you feel about being involved in Schools Spectacular 2022? 

I am so excited and honoured to have the opportunity to be a Featured Artist in School Spectacular 2022, Not only to perform in front of so many people, but also for the incredible learning experiences and friendships that this opportunity will bring. 

Maddie Stead

D.O.B: 3/24/2011 
School: Beacon Hill Public School
Year: 6

Performer biography: 

Billy Lowe is a Year 6 student and Captain at Beacon Hill Public School on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. He has a big love of singing and music in general, playing piano since the age of 6, along with trombone in his school band. Billy has had considerable success with sport like touch, rugby, soccer and athletics but has recently had an opportunity to develop his passion for singing, which has led him to the stage of School Spectacular. He can't wait to join with the hundreds of performers in November to share some magic and celebrate the return of performing arts and audiences into schools. 

Any shows you have performed in recently? 

Arts Alive Choral Festival - Sydney Town Hall - Burrendong Concert - Tues 9th - solo - Giants in the Sky, Sydney North Dance Festival - Glen St Theatre - Beacon Hill Public, Beacon Hill Public School Arts Showcase - 6 band performances + Snr Dance. 

School involvement including extra-curricular activities, sports, debating, leadership, academic etc.: 

School Captain, Sydney North PSSA Touch team (captain), Syd Nth cross-country championships, Syd Nth rugby championships, Syd Nth athletics championships, Premiers Debating Challenge team, school bball team, school Eagle Tag in weekly PSSA comp (summer), school Rugby League team in weekly PSSA comp (winter). 

Any hobbies, activities of interest or special skills? 

Billy keeps himself pretty occupied with music/singing and sport (outside of school; Touch, Soccer, Rugby Union). 

What does our theme 'Creating The Magic' mean to you? 

We did talk about this and determined that the songs were selected to remind the performers and the audience that there are many kinds of magic and wonder and hope that we can seek, in our minds, in our interactions with others, in looking at the natural world around us, that can help lift us into hoping for more and becoming more. Covid hampered our ability to share our creativity with each other in the usual ways, so we are celebrating being reunited, but Covid also sparked new ways of sharing and forced us to find magic and wonder in the more mundane, so we are celebrating the resilience that a strong imagination provides too. 

Schools Spectacular 2022 is proudly supported by Telstra, the NSW Teachers Federation, School Bytes, RØDE, Smartsalary, Teachers Health, ASM Global and the Seven Network. 

2022 Schools Spectacular ‘Creating the Magic’
Where:                        Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Olympic Park 
When:                         Friday 25 November 11:00am & 7:00pm & Saturday 26 November 1:00pm & 7:00pm 
Prices:                         Platinum: Adults $60 | Concession $50
                                    Family Pass (2 adults + 2 children) $186
                                    Gold: Adults $46 | Concession $36
                                    Family Pass (2 adults + 2 children) $131
Bookings:           or phone 13 28 49
Instagram:                   @SchoolsSpec       Twitter: @SchoolsSpec

2022 Schools Spectacular - Local Schools Participating

Students and staff participating in the 2022 Schools Spectacular are representing the following local NSW public schools:
  • Avalon Public School
  • Beacon Hill Public School
  • Belrose Arts Alive
  • Collaroy Plateau Public School
  • Curl Curl North Public School
  • Davidson High School
  • Elanora Heights Public School
  • Forestville Public School
  • Harbord Public School
  • Killarney Heights High School
  • Mona Vale Public School
  • Narrabeen Lakes Public School
  • Narrabeen Sports High School
  • Neutral Bay Public School
  • Northern Beaches Secondary College Cromer Campus
  • Northern Beaches Secondary College Freshwater Senior Campus
  • Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus
  • Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus
  • Pittwater High School
Did you know that  the Schools Spectacular is Australia's longest-running annual arena variety show? 
The Schools Spectacular:
  • has taken place annually at Qantas Credit Union Arena (formerly known as the Sydney Entertainment Centre) since 1984, and in 2016 was held at the Qudos Bank Arena.
  • in 2016, set a new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS TM for the Largest Amateur Variety Act with over 5,300 students performing in the show!
  • is an established and well-recognised event on the Sydney live entertainment calendar
  • showcases a cast of 2,300 dancers, a combined choir of 2,500, an 80-piece full symphony orchestra, and a 25-piece stage band
  • delivers outstanding, cutting-edge artistry in dance and musical performance
  • features state-of-the-art sound, lighting and staging
  • is televised nationally in prime-time on Channel 7.
The Schools Spectacular is a remarkable New South Wales success story proudly presented by the NSW Department of Education.

Now in its 39th year the 2022 edition will be back at the Qudos Bank Arena after two years live on stage. Good luck to all those taking part!
  • Dates: show week rehearsals – Monday 21 November to Thursday 24 November 2022, including final combined dance rehearsal, orchestra and stage band sound checks, mass choir rehearsal and dress rehearsal.
  • Performances: Friday, 25 November, and Saturday, 26 November 2022, including the schools’ preview matinee, Friday evening, Saturday matinee and Saturday evening performances.
2018 Schools Specauclar. Photo: Anna Warr

National Bird Week + Aussie Bird Count 2022

National Bird Week 2022 will take place between Monday 17 October and Sunday 23 October. The celebration of National Bird Week has its origins back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by BirdLife Australia's predecessor, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’. BirdLife Australia organises and promotes Bird Week with the goal of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts.

BirdLife Australia brings you the Aussie Bird Count, one of Australia's biggest citizen science events! Celebrate National Bird Week by taking part in the Aussie Bird Count — you will be joining thousands of people from across the country who will be heading out into their backyards, local parks or favourite outdoor spaces to take part.

To get involved all you need is 20 minutes, your favourite outdoor space (this can be your yard, local park, beach, or anywhere you can see birds), and some keen eyesight. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an expert — we will be there to help you out. Simply record the birds you know and look up those you don’t on our ‘Aussie Bird Count’ app or our website. You’ll instantly see live statistics and information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted in your neighbourhood and the whole of Australia.  Not only will you get to know your feathered neighbours, but you’ll be contributing to a vital pool of information from across the nation that will help us see how Australian birds are faring.

So get your friends and family together during National Bird Week, head into the great outdoors and start counting.
To find out more or get involved, please visit:

Photos: Rainbow Lorikeet and Little Corella in Pittwater on September 29, 2022. Photos taken by A J Guesdon.

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

2023 Year 12 School Scholarship Program Now Open: DYRSL

Dee Why RSL is pleased to announce the 2023 School Scholarship Program, open to local students going into year 12 for the 2023 year of study. 

A total of ten students will receive $2000 each, to assist them in achieving their utmost potential while completing the Higher School Certificate. 

Securing A Brighter Future For Disadvantaged Youth

Eligible students from Years 10 to 12 or TAFE equivalent can now apply for a $1000 scholarship to help meet the cost of studying.
The future goals of some of the state’s most vulnerable young people are a step closer to being achieved thanks to the NSW Government’s Youth Development Scholarships program.

Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones is calling for eligible students from Years 10-12 or TAFE equivalent to apply for the $1000 scholarships.

“The scholarships aim to remove some of the financial burdens that students face so they can focus on achieving greater results and finish their studies,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.

“From textbooks to internet access, the scholarships will ensure our young people are well-equipped to reach their full potential.”

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said that a quality education is a strong foundation for a brighter future.

“The NSW Government wants to support our students in achieving their goals and these scholarships provide them with the necessary financial support to get them started,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I know these scholarships will be greatly appreciated by our young people and will help them have a bright start in life.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be living in social housing or on the housing register, receiving private rental subsidy from DCJ, or living in supported accommodation or out-of-home care.

More than 4700 students have been supported by the scholarship program since it was established in 2017.

For more information on how to apply, visit Youth Development Scholarships

For new and returning high school students, applications will close Wednesday 30 November 2022 at 5:00pm.

For returning tertiary students, applications will close Friday 3 March 2023 at 5:00pm.

Be The Boss: I Want To Be An Architect 

Architects design building projects for clients. They often act as a trusted advisor to the client throughout the whole project’s lifecycle, and manage the cohesion of the build. Architects work with Builders, Engineers, Surveyors, Lawyers, other professionals and tradespeople to achieve their vision.

Tasks and duties
Envisioning and drawing designs, both by hand and computer-aided design (CAD) applications.
Designing around constraining factors such as project budget, local council legislation, town planning and environmental impacts.
Conferring with builders about project feasibility.
Applying for planning permission.
Writing and presenting reports, applications, proposals and contracts.
Adapting plans based on local government feedback and resolving any issues that may arise throughout the build.
Advising clients throughout the build, and managing the project in conjunction with other professionals.
Travelling to the building site and different offices for meetings regularly.

To become an Architect in Australia, you need to complete an accredited masters degree, gain industry experience and pass a three-part assessment. Upon meeting these requirements, you can register with your local Architect Registration Board.
  1. Complete a bachelor degree in architecture. This usually takes three years of full-time study.
  2. Complete an accredited Master of Architecture. At some universities, students with prior experience in the field may be able to progress straight to a masters degree without a bachelor degree.
  3. Complete two years of relevant work experience.
  4. Pass a three-part competency assessment process called the Architectural Practice Examination. This includes the completion of a logbook, a written paper and an interview with current practising architects.
  5. Register with your state or territory’s Architect Registration Board.
This career is projected to grow by 17.5% over the next 5 years.

Information courtesy Australian Government Apprenticeships Guide (Your Career), TAFE NSW, Australian Open Colleges,  Australian Careers HQ and The Good Universities Guide, Australia.

1907 plans by Charles Jakin- signed off 10.5.1907.  Courtesy State Records of NSW.

Also Available:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo - An Urban Kangaroo: Spring School Holidays Wildlife Spotting

This week a few photos of an eastern grey kangaroo and joey taken during our school holidays. This pair were part of a female mob of around 20 mums and bubs that live in Western Sydney, on Cumberland Plain Woodlands and are what we at Pittwater Online News call 'Urban Kangaroos' because they live in the remaining patches of bushland in urban areas. Fortunately, where this pair live, hundreds of hectares have been permanently set aside by those who developed this housing estate to ensure they can continue to thrive.

The eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is a marsupial found in the eastern third of Australia, with a population of several million. It is also known as the great grey kangaroo and the forester kangaroo. 

The eastern grey kangaroo is the second largest and heaviest living marsupial and native land mammal in Australia. An adult male will commonly weigh around 50 to 66 kg (110 to 146 lb) whereas females commonly weigh around 17 to 40 kg (37 to 88 lb). They have a powerful tail that is over 1 m long in adult males. Large males of this species are more heavily built and muscled than the lankier red kangaroo and can occasionally exceed normal dimensions. One of these, shot in eastern Tasmania weighed 82 kg (181 lb), with a 2.64 m (8.7 ft) total length from nose to tail (possibly along the curves). The largest known specimen, examined by Lydekker, had a weight of 91 kg (201 lb) and measured 2.92 m (9.6 ft) along the curves. When the skin of this specimen was measured it had a "flat" length of 2.49 m (8.2 ft).

The eastern grey is easy to recognise: its soft grey coat is distinctive, and it is usually found in moister, more fertile areas than the red. Red kangaroos, though sometimes grey-blue in colour, have a totally different face than eastern grey kangaroos. Red kangaroos have distinctive markings in black and white beside their muzzles and along the sides of their face. Eastern grey kangaroos do not have these markings, and their eyes seem large and wide open.

Where their ranges overlap, it is much more difficult to distinguish between eastern grey and western grey kangaroos, which are closely related. They have a very similar body and facial structure, and their muzzles are fully covered with fine hair (though that is not obvious at a distance, their noses do look noticeably different from the noses of reds and wallaroos). The eastern grey's colouration is a light-coloured grey or brownish-grey, with a lighter silver or cream, sometimes nearly white, belly. The western grey is a dark dusty brown colour, with more contrast especially around the head.

Indigenous Australian names include iyirrbir (Uw Oykangand and Uw Olkola) and kucha (Pakanh). 

The highest ever recorded speed of any kangaroo was 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) set by a large female eastern grey kangaroo. That's fast! These are the only known animals that move by bounding, or 'hopping'.

Sometimes, when out in the bush up on the north coast, you can hear a soft 'thump, thump, thump' as they bound across the grassy forest floor, even before you see them. This is a lovely sound.

Although the red is better known, the eastern grey is the kangaroo most often encountered in Australia, due to its adaptability. It inhabits coastal areas, woodlands, sub-tropical forests, mountain forests, and inland scrubs. There are even some in our area.

Like all kangaroos, it is mainly nocturnal and is seen early in the morning, or as the light starts to fade in the evening. In the middle of the day, these kangaroos will rest in the cover of the woodlands and eat there but then come out in the open to feed on the grasslands in large numbers. The eastern grey kangaroo is predominantly a grazer, eating a wide variety of grasses, whereas some other species (e.g. the red kangaroo) include significant amounts of shrubs in their diet.

Eastern grey kangaroos are gregarious and form open-membership groups. The groups contain an average of three individuals. Smaller groups join together to graze in preferred foraging areas, and to rest in large groups around the middle of the day. They exist in a dominance hierarchy and the dominant individuals gain access to better sources of food and areas of shade. However, kangaroos are not territorial. Eastern grey kangaroos adjust their behaviour in relation to the risk of predation with reproductive females, individuals on the periphery of the group and individuals in groups far from cover being the most vigilant. Vigilance in individual kangaroos does not seem to significantly decrease when the size of the group increases. The open membership of the group allows more kangaroos to join and thus provide more buffers against predators.

Females may form strong kinship bonds with their relatives. Females with living female relatives have a greater chance of reproducing. Most kangaroo births occur during the summer. It's worth noting that Eastern grey kangaroos are obligate breeders in that they can only reproduce in one kind of habitat.

The female eastern grey kangaroo is usually permanently pregnant except on the day she gives birth; however, she has the ability to freeze the development of an embryo until the previous joey is able to leave the pouch. This is known as embryonic diapause, and will occur in times of drought and in areas with poor food sources. 

The composition of the milk produced by the mother varies according to the needs of the joey. In addition, the mother is able to produce two different kinds of milk simultaneously for the newborn and the older joey still in the pouch. Unusually, during a dry period, males will not produce sperm, and females will only conceive if there has been enough rain to produce a large quantity of green vegetation.[14] Females take care of the young without any assistance from the males. The joeys are heavily reliant on their mothers for about 550 days, which is when they are weaned. 

Where does the word 'kangaroo' come from?

In 1898, anthropologist Walter Roth wrote to the editors of The Australasian to set the record straight: “kangaroo,” he said, is clearly derived from “gangurru,” meaning “black kangaroo” in the language of the Guugu Yimidhirr people of north Queensland. It’s their name for the eastern grey kangaroo. But lexicographers took no note of this until 1972, when linguistic anthropologist John Haviland began his work on Guugu Yimidhirr and was able to confirm the “gangurru” etymology.

Kangaroos are four marsupials from the family Macropodidae (macropods, meaning "large foot"). In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, the red kangaroo, as well as the antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo. Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea.

The kangaroo is a recognisable symbol of Australia. The kangaroo and emu feature on the Australian coat of arms. Kangaroos have also been featured on coins, most notably the five kangaroos on the Australian one dollar coin.

Kangaroos are well-known for their calm and peaceful nature and do not like to get involved in any fight unless they are threatened. 

There have been lots of stories and poems written about kangaroos - this is one is short but sweet:


'Twas in the gloomy Winter, when I walked about the zoo.;

The creatures had the blues, except the leaping kangaroo.

"How can you be so cheerful at this dismal time?" I cried.

"It's always spring with me, my friend," the kangaroo replied.

A SPRING POEM. (1917, June 4). The Globe and Sunday Times War Pictorial (Sydney, NSW : 1914 - 1917), p. 6. Retrieved from

Word Of The Week: Fun 

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

noun - enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure.

adjective - amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.

verb (informal - north America) - joke or tease

From "diversion, amusement, mirthful sport," 1727, earlier "a cheat, trick" (c. 1700), from verb fun (1680s) "to cheat, hoax," which is of uncertain origin, possibly a variant of Middle English fonnen "befool" (c. 1400; fond). Scantly recorded in 18c. Older senses are preserved in phrase to make fun of (1737) also: mid-15c., "foolish, silly;" 1846, "enjoyable," from fun (n.).

The Jacksons - Can You Feel It (Kirk Franklin Remix 2021 - Originally 1980)

Lifehouse - Hanging By A Moment (2004)

Powderfinger - Sunsets (2003)

Kool & The Gang - Celebration  (1980)

I was an expert advisor on the documentary ‘How to Thrive’. Here’s what happened after this wellbeing experiment

Priscilla Du Preez/UnsplashCC BY-SA
Peggy KernThe University of Melbourne

The How to Thrive documentary, which screens in cinemas from today, follows seven people as they learn to not only survive, but thrive.

The documentary aligns with “positive psychology”, which aims to provide people with the skills and resources to proactively support their mental health and wellbeing.

I research positive psychology and was as an expert advisor for the documentary, assessing the participants’ progress over 18 months.

My analysis shows the evidence-based strategies in the documentary supported participants to thrive, leading most of them to feel and function well across multiple aspects of their lives.

There are lessons here for everyone. Here’s what we learned from the intensive film-making process that you can apply to better your life.

The Process

Filming began just before the start of the pandemic. Twelve people from diverse backgrounds – all with varying degrees of mental illness – took part. A two-day retreat introduced everyone to each other, and the journey ahead.

Each person had their own psychiatric supports as a requirement for being part of the program. There was also a clinical psychologist overseeing the process.

Then lockdown began.

Participants connected through Zoom, creating a sense of community and developing a sense of belonging. They were introduced to evidence-based strategies to improve their lives, and filmed their progress on their phones.

All participants learned about their character strengths (the positive parts of your personality that make you feel authentic and engaged), created a vision board of their best possible future self, practised self-compassion, and identified what went well in their life and why.

They also received individual coaching sessions, and were given activities specific to their needs.

Of the original 12 participants, seven were included in the final cut of the film, based on which stories allowed the producers to talk about a range of approaches and diversity of mental health conditions.

How to Thrive, due for release in cinemas October 13.

How I Assessed Their Progress

I collected data documenting participants’ experiences, mental illness and wellbeing.

Over eight months, participants made major changes in their lives and saw the benefits. Benefits continuing over the subsequent ten months.

Let’s take a scale from -10 (to indicate high mental distress) to +10 (completely thriving).

On average, participants went from -3.2 (mild-to-moderate distress) to +5.4. Even a 2-point improvement would be statistically significant. But we saw a difference of more than 8 points, clearly showing participants were thriving, and demonstrating clinically significant improvements.

The greatest changes occurred from March to April 2020, during the documentary’s main intervention period. But improvements continued over the next 17 months.

How to Thrive poster
Participants said they were struggling less. How to Thrive/IMDB

On average, participants felt more satisfied with their lives, more hopeful, more engaged, and more connected. Participants improved their physical health, and felt less lonely and distressed.

Participants felt like they were struggling less. They felt more supported by others and gave more support to others. They increased their skills, resources, and motivation to live well.

The results support studies suggesting happiness does not just happen – it’s a skill that can be learned and developed, with the right aims and supports in place.

What Else Could Be Going On?

While seven participants were included in the final cut, all the original 12 took part in the assessments across the first 12 months. Almost all demonstrating significant increases in their mental health and wellbeing across the intervention period and beyond.

One participant, who did not engage in many of the intervention activities and remained distant from the group, did not see these improvements.

It’s possible the benefits arose from the psychiatric supports participants had in place as part of the documentary. However, each participant had years of experience with psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health supports, yet continued to deeply struggle.

This suggests the intervention provided added benefits to usual mental health care.

Studies suggest that positive psychology interventions can increase wellbeing and reduce the symptoms of depression.

However, we don’t know how positive psychology interventions alone compare with usual mental health care. We also don’t have evidence for adding positive psychology to usual mental care.

Positive psychology interventions have mostly been used with people without moderate-to-severe mental illness. Indeed, one of the extraordinary parts of this experiment was adding positive psychology to typical care for people with moderate-to-severe mental illness.

What Can We Learn?

The documentary suggests several key ways to support mental health and wellbeing.

1. Find your tribe

Throughout the documentary, participants developed a community. Humans have a natural need for belonging. In contrast, loneliness relates to mental and physical illness, and even early death. Find people that you can belong with and connect at a deep level, beyond superficial “friends”.

2. Engage in meaningful activities

Studies suggest engagement in life is an important marker of healthy ageing. This means not simply gliding through life, but sucking the marrow out of life. It involves finding and committing to activities that fill you up and give you a sense of life, rather than those that drain the life from you.

3. Be compassionate

Be compassionate towards yourself and others. We are often our own worst critics. We are doing the best we can. Be kind to yourself, and extend that kindness to others.

4. Be optimistic

Be optimistic and hopeful for the future. Things won’t always work out, but if we are biased towards seeing the possibility of what could be, the results might surprise us.

5. Nurture yourself

Nurture your physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. Eat and rest well, engage in moderate physical activity, and actively engage in activities that make you feel and function well.

But Be Careful

Positive psychology interventions are far from a panacea. As part of the documentary, they only worked for those who actively took part in the interventions and connected well with others.

Each participant was dealing with one or more mental illnesses. So positive psychology was not a replacement for conventional psychiatric support. They went hand-in-hand.

While the documentary presents a hopeful story of recovery, if you are struggling with mental illness, it’s important to connect with additional forms of support, including your GP, psychologist or psychiatrist.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Peggy Kern, Associate professor, Centre for Positive Psychology, The University of Melbourne

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

These stunning satellite images look like abstract art – and they reveal much about our planet

This is an enhanced satellite image of Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. Yellow sand dunes cover the upper right, red splotches indicate burned areas, and other colours show different types of surface geology. USGS/UnsplashCC BY
Emily FinchMonash University

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

There’s something to be said for a job that pays you to stroll over the Scottish Highlands, scoot around a Greek Island, or go on an expedition to Antarctica – all in the name of geoscience, the study of the Earth.

But during COVID travel restrictions, many geologists had to mine the collection of samples and data they already had. Other geologists used satellite and other images to make geological interpretations.

This field of geology is called remote sensing, which is the process of using, for instance, satellites or aeroplanes to observe the physical features of an area at a distance. It’s often easier to see how geology shapes our landscapes by taking this birds-eye view.

In terrific news for remote sensing geologists, armchair geology enthusiasts and lovers of stunning landscapes, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has a vast collection of satellite images of the Earth’s surface, capturing breathtaking geological features from space.

Remote sensing geologists use many techniques which make features of interest more distinct. This enhances or alters colours, which you can see in a few of my picks of USGS’s eight most fascinating images. Here’s what they reveal about the planet.

Volcanoes From Space

Volcanoes are usually pretty distinctive when you see them from the ground, whether it’s the iconic Mount Fuji, the lava fields of Iceland, or the hundreds of volcanoes that pockmark the fields of western Victoria in Australia.

From above, they can look a little different. In the first image below of Mount Elgon on the border of Uganda and Kenya, you can spot the “caldera” – a bowl-shaped depression in the centre of the volcano where the rock has collapsed after the magma chamber empties.

In the second image of New Zealand’s Mount Taranaki, you can spot the crater, which is also a depression, but forms when the volcano explodes and rocks are ejected.

Mount Elgon, Uganda and Kenya. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash
Volcano crater from above surrounded by a dark green circle of forest
Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park, New Zealand. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash

The products of volcanoes may also be obvious in satellite images. You can see the lava flow from the Haruj volcano in Libya in the third image below. It is a black stain of basalt on the surrounding white and yellow sand, to envy even the finest Rorschach inkblots.

This field of lava is about 185 kilometres wide, a huge distance that’s possible because the chemical composition of the lava made it runny and able to flow a long distance from the eruption site.

A black splatter of lava in surrounding sandy desert landscape
The Haruj Volcanic Field, Libya. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash

Some magma-related features have stumped geologists for years. Only by combining remote sensing with observations on the ground have they been able to solve these geological puzzles. The Richat Structure in Mauritania’s Maur Adrar Desert, shown below, is one such feature.

It looks like a meteorite impact crater or, perhaps, a bullseye for intergalactic visitors. But in recent years, researchers determined – after much debate – that it formed when a series of magmas from deep below the surface intruded into the existing sediments.

Grey concentric rings of rock surrounded by green landscape from above
The Richat Structure, Mauritania. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash

Some of these magmas formed concentric circles, known as ring dikes, which is the main feature we see in satellite imagery. These ring dike magmas never reached the surface and are only exposed now because the overlying rocks eroded away over time.

But other magmas in the series did make it to the surface to erupt as lava. You can see the small volcano formed by these surface eruptions on the USGS image where it appears as a white-grey smudge interrupting the southwestern part of the innermost ring dike.

When Rocks Collide

The landscapes of Iran’s Zagros Mountains and China’s Keping Shan thrust range have two major things in common.

First, they both look spectacular from above. Second, they were both formed at the bottom of oceans and were then uplifted and deformed by geological forces to form the ridges and valleys which dominate these two regions today.

View from above of domes of rock between valleys
Zagros Mountains, Iran. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash
A landscape from above showing multi-coloured layers of rock that have been folded and broken apart
Keping Shan thrust belt, China. United States Geological Survey/Unsplash

Both mountain belts were created when land masses collided, and the pressure from these collisions caused the rocks to fold over themselves. In some places, the rocks broke apart completely.

These breaks, known as faults, brought up deeper, older rocks to sit on top of younger rocks. These faults form the layered ridges seen in the satellite image of Keping Shan.

Unlike Keping Shan, the ridges in the Zagros Mountains were formed when softer rocks, such as silt and mudstone, were eroded away over time. This erosion formed valleys beside the more resistant rocks of limestone and dolomite, which comprise the arch-shaped folded domes.

Unravelling Rivers

Rivers make huge changes to our landscapes. Over many years they can find and exploit weaknesses in rocks to carve their way through any terrain. Rivers look and behave differently depending on factors such as flow rate, how much sediment they carry, and the gradient of the slope they’re on.

Rivers can consist of one narrow and winding stream (called a meandering river) such as the Beni River in Bolivia, or a wide channel made up of many branches braided together between bars of sediment (called a braided river), such as the portion of Brazil’s Rio Negro in the last image below.

A blue sinuous river cuts through bright green forest
Beni River, Bolivia. United States Geological Survey/UnsplashCC BY
View from above of the blue Rio Negro (black river) with a mosaic of rivers surrounded by green plains.
Rio Negro, Brazil. United States Geological Survey/UnsplashCC BY

Looking at the meandering Beni River from above, you can see how the twists and turns of the river have evolved over time. The u-shaped lakes scattered along the edges of the river are called oxbow lakes.

These oxbow lakes are the former channel of the river which have since been cut off when the river eroded a new, more direct channel to follow. In Australia, oxbow lakes are also known as billabongs.

Unlike the slowly meandering Beni River, the wide channel of the Rio Negro is created by fast flows and the deposition of coarse sediment. These characteristics form the mosaic of small islands between the branching flow of water. The islands become submerged during Brazil’s wet season when the volume and flow of the water is higher.

Armed with this new knowledge, book a window seat next time you fly and see what geological wonders you can spy from above.The Conversation

Emily Finch, Research Affiliate, Monash University

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

NASA’s asteroid deflection mission was more successful than expected. An expert explains how

Steven TingayCurtin University

On September 26, after a nine-month journey through the Solar System, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission impacted an asteroid called Dimorphos.

NASA scored a bullseye, with DART – roughly the size of a vending machine – hitting Dimorphos within 10% of the 160-metre asteroid’s centre. The hit changed the orbit of Dimorphos around its bigger companion asteroid Didymos by more than 30 minutes, far exceeding the original goal.

This is the first time humans have deliberately changed the motion of a significant Solar System object. The test shows it’s plausible to protect Earth from asteroid impacts using similar future missions, if needed.

A grayscale rock suspended in air on a dark background
The Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube spacecraft acquired this image just before its closest approach to the Dimorphos asteroid, after the impact. Didymos, Dimorphos, and the plume of debris ejected from Dimorphos are clearly visible. ASI/NASA

An Astonishing Feat

The successful mission is an astonishing feat of science and engineering. In the final phases of approach before impact, DART autonomously steered itself to the impact site, processing images onboard the spacecraft and adjusting its trajectory without the intervention of humans.

Many telescopes on Earth, and an Italian spacecraft that tagged along with DART, were able to obtain amazing images of the impact. Even small telescopes captured spectacular views, showing an enormous plume of debris from the impact that developed into a trail now following the asteroid through space.

The DART mission was the first test of planetary defence – the use of a spacecraft to change the trajectory of an asteroid.

In the future, such a technique could protect Earth from asteroid impact, if we detect an asteroid on a collision course with us. By changing the direction of an asteroid when it is far from Earth, a collision could be avoided.

A blue streak on a dark background with compass arrows showing North and East
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows Dimorphos 285 hours after the impact, with a tail of debris generated by the impact. NASA/ESA/STScI/Hubble

How Was DART So Successful?

Dimorphos was chosen as the target for DART because it is part of a double asteroid system – it orbits a larger, 780-metre asteroid called Didymos. Before the impact, this orbit was very regular and could be measured by large telescopes from Earth. Measurements showed the period of the orbit was about 11 hours and 55 minutes.

The DART mission goal was to show the orbit of Dimorphos would be changed by the impact, which took place 11 million kilometres from Earth, with the spacecraft travelling at 25,000 kilometres per hour.

A zoomed-in view of the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos. Astronomers can measure the orbit by detecting dips in the brightness of the light the asteroid pair reflect from the Sun. A small dip occurs when Dimorphos eclipses Didymos, and a bigger dip the other way around. NASA/APL/UMD

Telescopes on Earth measured the orbit before and after the impact. The minimum change to the orbit to declare mission success was 73 seconds.

The data are in and DART changed the orbit of Dimorphos by a whopping 32 minutes (plus or minus 2 minutes).

The change is large, partly because of the resulting debris plume. The act of throwing all that debris off the asteroid generated a recoil, like the recoil of a gun; the bullet is fired in one direction and the gun recoils in the opposite direction. It’s the same with the debris plume and the asteroid.

A glowing point of light on a dark background with a streak extending to one side
A side view of the streams of material from the surface of Dimorphos two days after impact. On the right, the material is forming a more than 9,500-kilometre-long comet-like tail, pushed into shape by pressure from the Sun’s radiation. CTIO/NOIRLab/SOAR/NSF/AURA/T. Kareta (Lowell Observatory), M. Knight (US Naval Academy)

Good News For Planetary Defence

By any measure, DART has therefore been a huge success. DART made a bullseye and showed that missions like this can alter the trajectories of asteroids. The idea has been around for a long time, and has inspired many asteroid movies. Now, engineering and science have caught up.

If, in the future, an asteroid is found to be on a collision path with Earth, and we have enough warning, a next-generation mission based on the DART experience could well save Earth and humanity from significant losses.

DART cost approximately US$324 million, and at this point it looks like money well spent.

As more data on the impact are analysed, planetary defence techniques can be refined. We will also learn a lot about asteroids from the data collected. A European mission is planned to go to the Didymos/Dimorphos system and take a close look at the impact crater, which will provide even more detailed information.The Conversation

Steven Tingay, John Curtin Distinguished Professor (Radio Astronomy), Curtin University

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

The Lindisfarne Gospels: the story of how a medieval masterpiece was made

A detail of the incipit page with the first words of the Gospel of John: In principio erat Verbum, “in the beginning was the Word”. The British Library
Sophie KellyUniversity of Bristol

Sometime around the turn of the 8th century, on Lindisfarne, a windswept island off the English coast in Northumbria, a monk by the name of Eadfrith sits down and sharpens his quill. He dips it into the black ink pot before him and, guided by the light of flickering candle, traces the first words of the Gospel of John on to blank parchment.

In principio erat Verbum.

“In the beginning was the Word”.

Eadfrith’s task is to copy the Latin text of all four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – and illustrate them in what art historians term the insular style, a geometric decorative technique spreading across early medieval Britain and Ireland.

It will take Eadfrith ten years to finish the Lindisfarne Gospels, on view at Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle until December 2 2022, but his masterpiece will be valued for generations. Later owners will add to its pages and the book will be saved from Viking invaders, finding a new home in Durham for 800 years before becoming part of the British Library’s collection via the collector Robert Cotton (1571-1631).

The story of the Lindisfarne Gospels is intimately connected to life in the north east of England. It speaks to the migration of communities, the passing on of artistic traditions and the preservation of a communal history that resonates with modern-day concerns around identity and belonging.

A highly decorative page from an illuminated manuscript.
One of the manuscript’s five carpet pages. British Library

Encrusted With Jewels

The Lindisfarne Gospels is formed of more than 250 vellum pages and measures just over 36cm in height, about the size of a modern A3 sheet. The book’s original “treasure binding”, encrusted with gold and jewels, was destroyed at some point in the manuscript’s tumultuous history, but the modern copy, commissioned in 1852, and other medieval treasure bindings give some sense of the sumptuous world in which this holy book was created.

The red and bejewelled cover of a large book.
The Lindisfarne Gospels with its modern binding, commissioned in 1852 by Edward Maltby, Bishop of Durham. British Library

The book opens with letters by the influential Christian theologians and Church Fathers Jerome and Eusebius and with a series of canon tables, organisational systems for comparing stories across the gospels. Then follows the gospel texts, each preceded by an image of its author and an incipit (literally meaning “it begins”) – a page of twisting geometric shapes that form the first words of the text.

The manuscript also includes a Chi-Rho page, where the letters of the abbreviated Greek version of Christ’s name, “XPI”, emerge from a swirling sea of vines. Most impressive of all are its five “carpet” or ornamental pages, where a dizzying pattern of repetitive knots and spirals, designed around the shape of a cross, fill the page.

On closer inspection, the dense mass of painted lines reveals a world teeming with life, from big-footed birds who parade around the borders to long-necked snake-like creatures darting in and out of the twisting shapes. Scholars are still divided as to their meaning, but some of their purpose must lie in their ability to beguile their reader, drawing them into the sacred text.

While these forms recall older worlds on the cusp of Christianity – particularly the Scandinavian-inspired burial goods of Suffolk site Sutton Hoo – they remain rooted in the Christian world in which they were made.

An illuminated portrait of a saint.
The portrait page for the Gospel of John. British Library

The Spread Of Christianity

The 5th-century collapse of the Roman Empire splintered Roman Britain into numerous warring kingdoms. By the 7th century, Oswald – son of Æthelfrith of Bernicia – had united Bernicia and Deira under the single banner of Northumbria. Over this powerful land, he encouraged the spread of Christianity.

In 635, Oswald invited an Irish monk named Aidan, from the Hebridean isle of Iona, to be his bishop, gifting him the small tidal island of Lindisfarne on which to establish a monastery. Arriving with Aidan were monks trained to produce the books for which Iona was famed: the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the Otho-Corpus Gospels (also on display at the Laing Art Gallery) were all produced on this isle.

A highly colourful illuminated manuscript.
The incipit page featuring the first words of the Gospel of John:_ In principio erat Verbum_, ‘In the beginning was the Word’. British Library

The writing room Aidan’s monks established, a scriptorium, paved the way for the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels a generation later, but its production is linked to another famous event in the island’s history. Cuthbert, Lindisfarne’s prior and later bishop, had already acquired a reputation as a miracle worker by the time of his death in 687. However, when his tomb was opened 11 years later and his body was found to be “incorrupt” (it had not decayed), pilgrims began to flock to Lindisfarne seeking healing. The island became a holy island. (Research has suggested that embalming techniques or the saltiness of the soil might explain why the body was preserved.)

An illuminated portrait of a saint.
The portrait page for the Gospel of Matthew. British Library

Eadfrith began his work on the gospels in the wake of these events, perhaps designing the book to take centre stage in the elaborate ceremonies performed around Cuthbert’s new shrine. A later inscription in the manuscript records that it was made “for God and St Cuthbert and – generally – for all the saints who are on the island.”

The Gospels Survive Viking Raids

That the book should have survived for 1,300 years is remarkable. In 793, Viking armies raided Lindisfarne, destroying Cuthbert’s shrine and most of the monastery. The monks fled, taking Cuthbert’s body and as many books as they could carry, including the Lindisfarne Gospels.

A detail of an illuminated manuscript.
The 10th-century addition of the Old English translation, visible above the original Latin text. British Library

After seven years the community settled at the priory in Chester-le-Street, near Durham. It is here that the Lindisfarne Gospels received their final but remarkable medieval addition. In the 10th century, when the manuscript had been in the library of Chester-le-Street for nearly 200 years, a monk named Aldred carefully added a translation of the gospel text in Old English above the Latin.

Aldred’s “interlinear gloss” (so-called because of its placement between the lines of text) is written in Northumbrian dialect in a smaller and spikier hand than Ealdred’s rounded Latin forms. It is unclear why Aldred decided to embark on this ambitious task. The timing, however, corresponds with growing efforts to cement Cuthbert’s cult in Durham and to translate books that had once been closely associated with his shrine in Lindisfarne for those with little or no Latin.

Aldred may also have had more personal reasons for his translation project. One of his inscriptions records that he is translating the text “for God and St Cuthbert, so that he [Aldred] may have admission into heaven; on earth, happiness, peace and success”.

Whatever his motivations, Aldred’s intervention provides us with the oldest surviving version of the Gospels in the English language. As well as a masterpiece of Northumbrian art, the Lindisfarne Gospels is an invaluable record of early medieval history, preserving the words spoken by everyday people in the north of England over nine centuries ago. Its images and text connect us to a world of saints, miracles and Viking invasions, but also a society that cared deeply about its past, its people – and its books.The Conversation

Sophie Kelly, Lecturer in History of Art, University of Bristol

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

A large cockroach thought extinct since the 1930s was just rediscovered on a small island in Australia

Justin Gilligan/DPEAuthor provided
Nathan LoUniversity of Sydney

In 1887, Australian Museum scientists undertook a pioneering expedition to Lord Howe Island, a tiny patch of land off the east coast of Australia. Among their many discoveries, they recorded “a large Blatta” – a type of cockroach – under a decaying log.

This was later described as Panesthia lata, the Lord Howe Island wood-feeding cockroach. P. lata was noted as being highly abundant, playing a key role in nutrient recycling, and presumably a food source for the many birds on the island.

Alas, in 1918 rats arrived on the island from a shipwreck. By the late 20th century, P. lata could not be found despite extensive searches over multiple decades, and was assumed to have gone extinct due to rat predation.

But could it have survived in some unexplored pocket of the island?

A dark blue ocean with a rocky, curved island in the middle of the photo
The crescent-shaped Lord Howe Island off the eastern coast of Australia is home to unique flora and fauna. John Carnemolla/Shutterstock

Putting The Cockroach Back Where It Belongs

In 2019, the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment (NSW DPE) implemented the final stage of its highly successful (although at times controversial) rat eradication program on the island.

Following this, I and my colleagues from NSW DPE, Lord Howe Island Museum, Chau Chak Wing Museum, CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection and the University of Melbourne became interested in the biology of P. lata and the potential to repopulate the island with this insect.

This was on the cards because in 2001, P. lata had been discovered on Blackburn and Roach islands, two small islands near Lord Howe Island.

A very large brown bug on a person's hand
The wood-feeding cockroach doesn’t go anywhere near people’s homes. Justin Gilligan/DPEAuthor provided

But hang on a minute: why would we want to put cockroaches, one of the most reviled creatures on Earth, back on a beautiful island after their seemingly fortuitous extermination?

Well, P. lata is, believe it not, quite cute and charismatic, and has no interest in going into people’s houses. It is wingless, about 4cm long, and stays hidden in the forest, where it burrows into the soil and feeds on leaf litter and rotting wood by night.

Fortuitous Rocks

In July we received funding from the Australia Pacific Science Foundation to investigate the genetics and ecology of P. lata from Blackburn and Roach Islands. So Maxim Adams, an honours student in our lab at the University of Sydney, and Nicholas Carlile from NSW DPE headed off to Lord Howe Island to begin the study.

Close-up of a large brown bug showing its spiky legs
The wood-feeding cockroach was thought to be extinct for decades, after extensive searches turned up no populations on Lord Howe Island. Justin Gilligan/DPE

Bad weather prevented them from going out to Blackburn Island, so they decided to examine potential sites on Lord Howe Island that might have once been teeming with P. lata before the rats arrived.

They walked to a secluded area in the north of the island, and decided to turn over a few rocks. Literally the first rock they checked revealed a small congregation of the cockroaches! I was due to join them three days later, but they called me that afternoon with great excitement to relay the news.

Two men crouching under an old tree examining rocks
Maxim Adams and Nicholas Carlile under the banyan tree where they made the surprise discovery. Justin Gilligan/DPEAuthor provided

They found a few others within a few metres under the same fig tree, but extensive searching over the next few days revealed none in other nearby areas or other parts of the island.

Not The Same As Their Neighbours

We carried out some preliminary DNA tests upon our return to Sydney, finding the rediscovered Lord Howe Island population of cockroaches was distinct from the ones found on Blackburn and Roach islands.

It is possible the population hung on as a result of rodent baiting in the area. The baiting was done in recent decades to assist the survival of various other threatened species.

We are now carrying out more extensive DNA studies, including historical museum samples collected from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and samples from Ball’s Pyramid, roughly 20km southeast of Lord Howe Island, collected by Dick Smith in the 1960s.

A jagged shard of rock stretching up from the surface of the ocean
Ball’s Pyramid is the eroded remnant of an ancient shield volcano, and part of Lord Howe Island Marine Park. Ashley Whitworth/Shutterstock

Through these studies, we hope to determine the relationship of the rediscovered population with those originally collected on the island a century or more ago and those on the outer islands. We also hope to uncover the origins and evolutionary history of P. lata.

The Lord Howe Island Group is a UNESCO world heritage site of global natural significance, and is home to more than 100 plant species found nowhere else on Earth, and many more endemic animal species. The biology of many of these species, particularly the island’s invertebrates, remains mysterious.

We hope our use of DNA techniques will help us to establish P. lata as a model for understanding several million years of evolution on the Lord Howe Island archipelago, and aid the re-establishment of this shy yet charismatic creature on its homeland.The Conversation

Nathan Lo, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney

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

From coelacanths to crinoids: these 9 ‘living fossils’ haven’t changed in millions of years

Alice ClementFlinders University

We see evolution all around us, constantly, in every living thing. Yet in the deep oceans we find a number of “living fossils” reminiscent of creatures from prehistoric times.

In his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, esteemed naturalist Charles Darwin coined the term “living fossil” to describe living organisms that appeared unchanged from their extinct fossil relatives. The term has since been used to describe long-enduring lineages, relict populations, groups with low diversity, and groups with DNA that has hardly changed in millions of years.

The marine depths seem to be a good place for “living fossils”, with cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays generally being 2-4 times more evolutionarily distinct than land animals. In other words, while every species is unique, these species are particularly unlike their closest relatives.

Let’s take a look at some of these relics from the past.

1. Coelacanth

Coelacanths are fish that live deep off the coasts of Africa and Indonesia. They have unusually shaped paired body fins which they move alternatively, almost as if they’re “walking” underwater. Their lineage stretches back to the Devonian Period, at least 410 million years ago.

It was once thought coelacanths had gone extinct alongside (non-bird) dinosaurs about 70 million years ago, as they disappear from the fossil record around this time.

Allenypterus montanus, a fossil coelacanth fish from the Bear Gulch Limestone in Montana. James St. John

So imagine the surprise when a living specimen was dredged up from the deep ocean in 1938! This fish became known as “Old Fourlegs” and was thought to be the direct fishy ancestor of all land animals (although we now know this isn’t strictly correct).

Today there are two living coelacanth species, known as Latimeria, which have basically remained unchanged over the past 100 million years.

2. Horseshoe crab

Horseshoe crabs are ancient creatures that first appeared at least 480 million years ago during the Ordovician Period and don’t appear to have changed much since. They are not crabs at all, but “chelicerates” and therefore more closely related to spiders and sea scorpions.

You can find Horseshoe crabs at Bowers Beach in Delaware. Jeffrey

There are four species alive today, all within the family Limulidae, found in waters off Asia and North America. They migrate to shallow coastal waters to breed in massive “orgy” events, with females laying many tens of thousands of eggs in the sand.

They also have strange blue blood, coloured that way due to a high copper content. Horseshoe crabs are harvested for their blood by the pharmaceutical industry since it has uses in biomedical testing.

Mesolimulus walchi is an extinct species of horseshoe crab. Petr Hykš

3. Elephant shark

Similar to horseshoe crabs, “elephant shark” (Callorhinchus milii) is a misnomer. This species, also known as the Australian ghost shark, is not a shark at all. It’s a related type of cartilaginous fish known as a “chimaera” and belongs to a subclass called Holocephali which diverged from the shark lineage more than 450 million years ago.

These “plownose” chimaeras take their name from their bizarrely shaped snout and can be found living off the continental shelves of Australia and New Zealand.

Analysis of their genome has shown the species changes at a veritable snail’s pace. In fact, it has the slowest evolving genome of all vertebrates, with its DNA almost imperceptibly altered over hundreds of millions of years.

Callorhinchus milii is covered in distinct dark markings. It is commercially exploited in Australia. Totti/Wikimedia

4. Nautilus

Nautilus are a type of marine cephalopod mollusc, and are therefore related to squid and octopus. However, unlike other cephalopods, they are housed within a distinctive smooth, hard shell.

Nautilus live in the ‘pelagic’ zone, the large middle column of water that’s far from both the shore and ocean bottom. PacificKlaus

Nautilus live in the open water in and around coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They’re hunted for their beautiful shells to make art and jewellery, but international trade is now regulated to protect them from over-exploitation.

Members of the Nautilidae family are known to have existed from the Late Triassic, and appear to have remained relatively unchanged for more than 200 million years. Darwin himself described these creatures as “living fossils”.

You’d struggle to tell an ancient Nautilus from a living one.

5. Goblin shark

The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is a bizarre animal with a long, flat snout and toothy jaws that protrude in front of the face to catch unsuspecting prey. It’s a relatively rare deep-water shark living in all major oceans. With a face only a mother could love, it was described as “grotesque” when first encountered in 1910.

The goblin shark is the only living representative of its family, Mitsukurinidae, and is the most evolutionarily distinct shark we know of; its lineage stretches back some 125 million years.

Goblin sharks are rarely seen by humans. Dianne Bray/Museum VictoriaCC BY

6. Mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp, also called stomatopods, are distinctive crustaceans found in tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world. They are fearsome marine carnivores known to deliver a dizzyingly fast and painful blow.

They also live a colourful life. During mating season they fluoresce (emit light) and have complex eyes to watch these displays. In fact, they have up to 16 colour receptors, whereas humans have just three.

Mantis shrimp have the fastest self-powered strike in the animal kingdom. PiktourUK

The mantis shrimp lineage branched off from other crustaceans in the malacostraca class (such as crabs, lobsters and krill) during the Carboniferous, around 340 million years ago. So these fabulous, feisty critters have been flourishing for a long time. Today there are hundreds of species belonging to the suborder Unipeltata, which appeared some 190 million years ago.

7. Striped panray

Many cartilaginous fish tend to be highly evolutionarily distinct, but taking out the top spot is the striped panray (Zanobatus schoenleinii). This fish has a median “evolutionary distinctiveness” age of 188 million years.

A striped panray illustration from 1841. Müller and Henle (1841)/Wikimedia

Today, the striped panray lives in tropical waters in the eastern Atlantic (and possibly the Indian) ocean, and feeds on small invertebrates from the ocean floor. It belongs to the order Rhinopristiformes and is oviparous, meaning it gives birth to live young. It is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

8. Brachiopods

Brachiopods are shelly marine animals with long, fleshy stalks that live in burrows on the seafloor. They act as reef-building organisms, filter-feeding from the water around them. Brachiopods living today, such as Lingula, look more or less the same as their Cambrian counterparts from about 500 million years ago! They are considered the oldest known animal (genus) that still contains living representatives.

In The Origin of Species, Darwin noted “some of the most ancient […] animals as […] Nautilus, Lingula, etc., do not differ much from living species”. It’s these observations that led him to propose the term “living fossil”.

Brachiopods have hardly changed in hundreds of millions of years. Rob Growler

9. Crinoids

Crinoids are known from at least the Devonian (359-419 million years ago) but may have existed as long ago as the Ordovician (more than 445 million). These marine animals, also known as “sea lilies”, once lived on the seafloor in a symbiotic relationship with corals. Corals grew off the stalks of crinoids to reach higher into the water column for better feeding opportunities.

A fossil crinoid species called Seirocrinus subangularis. James St. John

This association was very common until the crinoids’ supposed extinction 273 million years ago. However, in 2021 these two marine creatures were rediscovered in Japanese waters, thriving in a blissful aquatic partnership. It remains a mystery why no fossil evidence of this happy marriage had been found for the intervening period.

Crinoids were thought to be extinct until 2021. NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research

How Do Living Fossils Form?

While animals described as “living fossils” usually do continue to evolve, many of these changes are imperceptible to the human eye. To track how animals change over time, we look at molecular changes visible in the genes, or “morphological” changes to the physical form.

Internal (or molecular) drivers include genetic drift, which is the random change in the frequency of gene variants in a population over time. External forces include natural selection, in particular sexual selection, which lead to specific traits being inherited in a population over time.

All the marine animals in this list seem to be undergoing morphological stasis (slowing or stoppage). Some may have molecular stasis too. Their slowing rates of evolution are likely a result of the relatively stable environment underwater, particularly in the deep sea. These distant refuges are some of the least affected by direct human impacts and changes in weather and climate.

Then again, these animals are not immune. And if we’re not careful, we may lose some of these curious creatures forever.The Conversation

Latimeria (coelacanth) specimen at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, and an excited human.

Alice Clement, Research Associate in the College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University

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

Finally bold and imaginative: the first major redesign of the National Museum of Australia is a triumph

View from inside the Great Southern Land gallery at the National Museum of Australia. Supplied NMA.
Kylie MessageAustralian National University

The National Museum of Australia has just opened the most significant redevelopment in its history.

Costing $25 million, Great Southern Land weaves 2,000 objects into a natural and cultural history to show how the Australian continent has influenced and been impacted by human decisions.

The new gallery provides a place to share and explore ideas about Australia and our place in it, and to consider what actions might be necessary to ensure the nation’s future.

The exhibition is beautiful and sophisticated. Quiet where it needs to be quiet and boisterous and fun-loving in other parts, it engages all our senses as we gaze in wonder at the life-sized orca models suspended from the ceiling and squint to see the tiny fragments in display cases at knee level.

It is a pivotal moment in the ongoing life of the museum, and the nation.

A Controversial Museum

Aspirations for a national museum were precisely outlined in a report presented to government in late 1975. But the fall of the Whitlam government meant the political momentum for the proposal went by the wayside.

The National Museum of Australia wouldn’t open until 2001. At its launch, then prime minister John Howard criticised it as being “un-museumlike”.

Its colourful façade and shiny features jarred against Canberra’s landscape of brutalist-designed national institutions. But the museum’s difference was more than skin-deep.

Every part of it, inside and out, represented Australian history as resulting from the entanglement of many stories. Its exhibitions provided spaces for social and political commentary and challenged the credibility of national myths, particularly around the frontier wars.

The museum
The museums colourful façade and shiny feature jarred against Canberra’s national institutions. Shutterstock

Almost as soon as it opened, the museum was engulfed in fierce controversy, attacked for being both too political and not political enough. One headline in the Daily Telegraph read “museum sneers at white history of Australia”.

In a short time, polarised views hardened into attitudes, with supporters and critics both accusing the other side of distorting history to promote a political agenda. The clash culminated in a government review in 2003.

A New Type Of Museum

Part of the problem was the museum didn’t explain why it was so different from more familiar 19th-century-style institutions like the Australian War Memorial.

The National Museum of Australia included artefacts from recent events, things like “the small black dress” worn by Azaria Chamberlain when she was taken from her family’s tent at Uluru in 1980.

It addressed the visitor as “you”, and tried to hook them into conversations about the nation by asking them to reflect on personal experiences.

Its peers included Te Papa Tongarewa and the National Museum of the American Indian: reflecting a global museum movement that emphasised the voice of First Nations and marginalised peoples and aimed to disrupt colonial narratives.

The museum that opened in 2001 came across as overly enthusiastic, didactic, even dogmatic in parts. Instead of showing how meaning was developed, for example, by saying something about how objects were collected, its displays jumped from spectacle to spectacle.

National Museums And Truth-Telling

Great Southern Land is the first major redesign of the museum since 2001.

As visitors enter the new exhibition through a darkened grove of towering Bunya trees, it is clear from the outset the redeveloped gallery has better articulated the 1975 plan’s ambitions for the museum to be “bold and imaginative”.

It also realises the plan’s focus on the Australian environment, Aboriginal history, the history of Europeans in Australia and the intricate relationships between people and the environment.

The bunya forest inside the Great Southern Land gallery at the National Museum of Australia. Supplied NMA.

The Bunya forest is to scale and awe-inspiring. Kids rush to touch and try to get their arms fully around a tree trunk. It introduces all aspects of the new exhibition, including the museum’s centralisation of partnerships and consultation with First Nations people and communities.

The sprawling gallery leads to the zoological specimen of a thylacine in a bath of preserving liquid. It lies prone, in the centre of the exhibition. It is, perhaps along with the Bunya forest, the most moving object story. But the extinction icon evokes horror and sadness rather than joy and awe. It tackles the decades of wilful and unintended mistreatment the artefact has endured, including by the museum.

The thylacine reiterates the museum’s attention to interconnections between human and natural history. Felted thylacine joeys made by Trawlwoolway artist Vicki West in 2019 are also displayed, showing the shared history of exclusion and oppression.

Great Southern Land is part of the institution’s remit to “to be a trusted voice in the national conversation”.

View from inside the Great Southern Land gallery at the National Museum of Australia. Supplied NMA.

Its ambition is backed up by studies showing even despite being caught up in the culture wars, museums remain one of Australia’s most trusted institutions.

It also talks about the human side of trust. A phone box destroyed in the Cobargo 2019 bushfire sits alongside a power pole from Cyclone Tracy in 1974. A community member from Cobargo says these objects represent what happens when major infrastructure fails and community doesn’t.

In this new gallery, the museum is surer of itself. It communicates an awareness of its own responsibilities as a national museum that has had to reckon for decisions made historically by it and in its name.

It understands the gravity and necessity of its role in reaching out to people, and expects visitors to come prepared to practice intellectual curiosity, self reflection and respectful discussion. The Conversation

Kylie Message, Professor of Public Humanities, Australian National University

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

New Zealand's Last Hippie Commune

Published September 22, 2022

AvPals Training Term 4 2022 At Newport

Avpals are proud to present our training schedule for Term 4 at the Newport Community Centre. You can enroll online, make inquiries online, even pay online. Spaces are limited. We are complying with every aspect of Covid Care. 

Avalon Computer Pals (AVPALS) help seniors learn and improve their computer and technology skills. Avpals is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers. Since 2000, we have helped thousands of seniors from complete beginners to people who need to improve or update their skills. We offer “one to one” personal tuition or special short courses. Small class workshops are run at the Newport Community Centre on Tuesday afternoons.

One-to-one training is provided at our rooms in Avalon, under the Maria Regina Catholic Church, 7 Central Road, Avalon.

Find out more at:

The Term 4 timetable is below:

Tobias Breider & Grace Kim Perform Forgotten Romance

On Sunday 6th November at 4:00pm at OLGC Catholic Church, Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Violist, Tobias Breider performs a captivating recital “Forgotten Romance”, with acclaimed Sydney concert pianist, Grace Kim,  for Wyvern Music Forestville.

The concert opens with the charming Romance by Max Bruch and ends with a Viola Da Gamba Sonata by JS Bach, with the well-known Rebecca Clarke Sonata, Franz Liszt’s Romance Oublilée and Paul Hindemith’s Trauermusik Suite as the central works of the program. 

Tobias Breider, Principal Violist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra since 2011, has established himself as one of Australia’s most sought-after violists in chamber music. Winston Churchill Fellow, concert pianist, artistic director and music educator Grace Kim, believes that quality live music should be accessible to everyone with a desire to hear it. Ensuring that it is, her Sensory Concerts® and Mountain Concerts series are performed by her internationally-recognised peers. 

When: Sunday 6th November at 4:00pm
Where: Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, 9 Currie Rd, Forestville 
Tickets: Full: $25 Concession: $20 Students: $15 Children under 16 Free
Enquiries: Wyvern Music Forestville Tel: 9416 5234

Bilgola Probus Club Commences

The Bilgola Probus Club had its inaugural meeting last month and the Committee is now on a membership drive to secure interested people to join our club.  Membership is open to males and females who are currently retired or semi-retired.

We meet on the first Friday of each month at 10am at the Newport Bowling Club; 2 Palm Road Newport.

To find out more, please contact our President, Patricia Ryan on 0438 281 573.

Keep On Dancing Is What The Science Says!

ABC Catalyst is presenting a 2 part special studying the many benefits of dance for the over 65s. Improvements in memory, movement and the creation of new neural pathways in the brain are some of the benefits found in recent studies.

Nia is a combination of 52 moves drawn from dance arts, martial arts and healing arts. Within one class we combine flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability (FAMMS) in order to improve balance and fitness. By incorporating FAMMS within the movements, Nia is an integrated way to condition the entire body. People who regularly practice Nia open to a new awareness of their bodies, their internal energies, and their feelings – all of which help them move more efficiently, effectively, and safely in their workouts and in life.

Come along and give it a try. There's no performance pressure. Avalon Nia Classes are held at the Recreation Centre.
6pm Thursdays Classic Nia
9.30am Fridays Gentle Nia
Call or text Mandy Loveday 0411 645 389 - Profile

Nia’s 9 movement forms embrace the 5 Sensations of Fitness:
  • Flexibility
  • Agility
  • Mobility
  • Strength
  • Stability
Dance for health. Avalon Recreation Centre Thursdays 6pm and Fridays 9.30am. 

U3A Actvities

Previously known as Guringai country, the land of the Garigal or Caregal people, the Northern Beaches area stretches from Palm Beach to Manly. It is home to Manly Sea Eagles, Garigal and Kuring-Gai Chase National Parks, enviable beaches and a relaxed, carefree lifestyle.

Our 2022 Semester 2 Course Book is now available and we are looking forward to seeing you at some of our exciting courses. In addition to face to face and Zoom courses this semester we also have three outings which may interest you:
  • A day trip to Mount Wilson on 5 October (details on page 9);
  • Our annual picnic on 20 October, this year at Clontarf Reserve (details on page 10); and
  • Tunnels and Gunners Tour, with a guide from the Sydney Harbour Trust, on 3 November (details on page 10.
Bookings are required for each of these events so please hurry to join in.

Home Instead Sydney North Shore & Northern Beaches

We are a provider of quality home care and companionship services for seniors in the Northern suburbs of Sydney. 

To you, it’s about finding trustworthy care for your ageing loved one. To us, it’s about providing the highest-quality in-home care services to fit you and your family’s needs.
To Us, It's Personal.

We provide services to all areas and suburbs in the North Shore and Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Telephone: (02) 9144 2322

Parkinson’s disease: treatment is best started early

Emily HendersonUniversity of Bristol

BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman was brought to hospital after he collapsed in a park while walking his dog. A doctor in the emergency department said to Paxman: “I think you have Parkinson’s.”

The doctor had noticed that Paxman was less animated than usual when presenting University Challenge. A mask-like face is a classic symptom of the disease.

Paxman said the diagnosis was “completely out of the blue”.

In Parkinson’s disease, there is a loss of a chemical in the brain called dopamine that causes movements to be smaller and slower. In the early stages of the disease, people notice that their walking slows and they have difficulty keeping pace with companions.

Sometimes people find it difficult to turn over in bed or have trouble with more awkward tasks, such as doing up buttons. Balance and stability can also be affected, which can put people with the condition at higher risk of falls – as happened to Paxman.

A diagnosis is primarily made through listening to the symptoms that someone describes. Doctors also conduct bedside tests that look for slow and small movements of the hands, arms and legs as well as shaking and stiffness of the muscles. Imaging scans can play a role in helping exclude other causes of movement difficulties. It is important to exclude the changes in movement being caused by some medications or by hardening of the arteries of the brain that happen as people get older.

Early signs of the condition may be present up to 20 years before the first movement symptoms occur. Loss of smell, acting out dreams while asleep (such as punching, kicking or yelling), feeling low and constipation are all clues that, in combination, might suggest that someone may be at more risk of developing the disease.

Although a loss of dopamine is the key culprit in Parkinson’s, significant advances in understanding the condition have highlighted the importance of other changes in the brain that affect other brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) which cause symptoms that are unrelated to movements. These so-called “non-motor features” affect sleep, memory, thinking, mood, blood pressure, and bladder and bowel function. These changes can be more challenging for people with Parkinson’s than the more visible problems with movement.

Some of the largest Parkinson’s drugs trials running in the UK now target these troubling non-movement related symptoms. These clinical trials test medications for hallucinationsfalls and depression.

Treatment Should Be Tailored

The saying: “If you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s, you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s” reflects the fact that the condition affects people very differently. This means that treatments need to be carefully targeted to an individual. A one-size-fits-all approach to care means that people are given the same treatments regardless of their circumstance. This approach, while often applied, fails to take into account a person’s experience of the disease, their unique needs and the goals they want to achieve. As a result care is often fragmented and unsatisfactory.

Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s can cause understandable worry and uncertainty about the future. However, there are many effective drug treatments. Care is often supported by occupational therapists, physiotherapists and nurse specialists who can help people live fulfilling lives.

Most people with Parkinson’s will be offered levodopa – a drug that increases dopamine in the brain. But other drugs that help with movement problems are available, too. They are usually available in pill form or as a patch.

Until around ten years ago, treatment was often delayed until people became very disabled. Treatment is now started promptly to maintain people’s wellbeing and independence.

In later stages of the condition, devices can be fitted that allow medicines to be injected under the skin. Medication can be infused into the intestine through medical pumps or electricity can be used to stimulate affected areas of the brain using deep brain stimulation devices (like a pacemaker for the brain). These treatments are not commonplace but are predominantly used for people with later stages of disease.

Parkinson's Disease patient displaying a surgically installed tube that delivers anti-Parkinson's medication directly into the jejunum
Drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease can be delivered straight to the gut. GerryP/Shutterstock

Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, researchers continue to work on finding a cure for the disease or treatment that slows progression. There are exciting developments on the horizon, including early disease detection based on changes in body odour.

Science is progressing rapidly and the prompt recognition and treatment of the condition can mean that people can access an ever-increasing range of effective treatments.The Conversation

Emily Henderson, Associate Professor, Ageing and Movement Disorders, University of Bristol

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

Nobel prize: Svante Pääbo’s ancient DNA discoveries offer clues as to what makes us human

Love DalénStockholm University and Anders GötherströmStockholm University

The Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for 2022 has been awarded to Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, “for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution”.

In other words, Pääbo has been awarded the prestigious prize for having sequenced the genomes of our extinct relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and for the fact that these discoveries have resulted in novel insights into human evolution.

Pääbo is widely regarded as having pioneered the field of ancient DNA, a research area dedicated to the recovery and analysis of DNA from historic and prehistoric remains.

Although Pääbo did his PhD in medical science at Uppsala University in Sweden in the early 1980s, he also studied Egyptology when he was at Uppsala. It was a logical next step that he took tools from molecular biology, garnered from his expertise in medical science, to better understand human prehistory.

Extracting DNA From Ancient Bones

Beginning in the 1980s, Pääbo studied ancient DNA in material ranging from mummified humans to extinct ground sloths. This work was technically challenging because ancient DNA is significantly degraded and can be contaminated.

In the decade that followed, he developed a series of methods and guidelines to recover and interpret authentic DNA and to minimise the risk of contamination from modern sources, especially from contemporary humans.

In the early 1990s, there was significant excitement in the field about the possibility of recovering DNA from dinosaurs. However, based on his knowledge of how DNA degrades over time, Pääbo remained sceptical that DNA could survive such a long time. He was later proven right.

For many of his colleagues, it was clear that Pääbo’s goal was always to recover Neanderthal DNA. But he took his time and carefully developed the methods for recovering and authenticating ancient DNA until these methods were mature enough to accomplish this objective.

Finally, in 1997, Pääbo and his colleagues published the first Neanderthal DNA sequences. In 2010 this was followed by the entire Neanderthal genome (that is, all the genetic information stored in the DNA of one Neanderthal).

Only a few years later, the group also published the genome from a previously unknown type of human, the Denisovans, distantly related to Neanderthals. This sequencing was based on a 40,000-year-old fragment of bone discovered in the Denisova cave in Siberia.

A depiction of a Neanderthal family wandering through the jungle.
Pääbo’s discoveries show us that gene sequences from our extinct relatives influence the physiology of modern-day humans. Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

By virtue of being able to compare these with human genomes, one of the most important findings of Pääbo’s work has been that many modern humans carry a small proportion of DNA from Neanderthals and Denisovans. Modern humans picked up these snippets of DNA through hybridisation, when modern and archaic humans mixed, as modern humans expanded across Eurasia during the last ice age.

For example, particular Neanderthal genes affect how our immune system reacts to infections, including COVID-19. The Denisovan version of a gene called EPAS1, meanwhile, helps people survive at high altitudes. It’s common among modern-day Tibetans.

At the same time, in comparing the genomes of Neanderthals and Denisovans with those of modern humans, Pääbo and his colleagues have been able to highlight genetic mutations that are not shared. A large proportion of these are connected to how the brain develops.

By revealing genetic differences that distinguish living humans from our extinct ancestors, Pääbo’s influential discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.The Conversation

Love Dalén, Professor in Evolutionary Genetics, Centre for Palaeogenetics, Stockholm University and Anders Götherström, Professor in Molecular Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University

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

Remember Lessons Learned As COVID-19 Isolation Ends State Government Says

NSW Health is urging the community to continue to look out for one another after mandatory isolation ends this Friday, 14 October by remembering lessons learned.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said at the top of the list is staying home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms, get tested and if you must head out, wear a mask.

“We all know from experience what works best to protect one another from COVID-19 so please, continue to take those simple but important steps,” Dr Chant said.

“In particular, we urge people to please stay at home if they have cold or flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough or fever and go and get tested.

“If you have COVID-19 you may be infectious for up to 10 days but you are most infectious in the two days before your symptoms start and while you have symptoms.

“If you have to leave the house while unwell, wear a mask when indoors and on public transport, avoid large gatherings and indoor crowded places, and don’t visit high risk settings, such as hospitals, aged or disability care facilities for at least seven days.”

Dr Chant said people should talk to their employer about when they can safely return to the workplace, with the risk to be managed under occupational health and safety frameworks.

High-risk settings such as hospitals, disability and aged care facilities have been advised by Dr Chant that staff should only return to these settings after seven days, subject to their own work, health, and safety assessment, and if symptom-free.

“It is important we continue to think of others, especially those most vulnerable and the best thing people of all ages can do to protect themselves remains to make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations,” Dr Chant said.

While registration of a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) will also no longer be mandatory from Friday, NSW Health asks people to continue the practice voluntarily.

Registering a positive RAT through Service NSW allows us to connect people to medical care, particularly older people and the immunocompromised, and it also helps inform our ongoing public health response,” Dr Chant said.

Close contacts of positive cases are most at risk of catching the virus so if you are a close contact, remember:
  • Monitor for symptoms. If you get sick, get tested and stay home.
  • Avoid visiting high-risk settings such as a hospital, aged or disability care facilities, or visiting anyone at high risk of severe illness for at least seven days, and then ensure you have a negative RAT before visiting.
  • Wear a mask when indoors and on public transport.
  • Frequent RATs may help identify infection early – this is particularly important if you are in contact with people at high risk of severe illness.
For more advice on how to stay safe and prevent the spread of respiratory viruses including COVID-19, visit

Photo: People queuing for Avalon Beach Recreation Centre pop-up clinic on Thursday December 17th, 2020 - photo by Roger Sayers OAM

Pharmacy Trial A Dangerous Experiment Undermining GPs’ Valued Role

October 6, 2022
The AMA has expressed concern at reports the NSW Government is considering a trial to allow pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections, warning it would result in higher health care costs and poorer outcomes for patients.

The AMA has called for the New South Wales government to scrap any plans to allow pharmacists to prescribe medicines for patients.

AMA President Professor Stephen Robson said any consideration to allow pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections was a “dangerous experiment” that would result in poorer health outcomes for patients.

He was reacting to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that the NSW health minister Brad Hazzard had asked his department to explore such a trial.

Professor Robson said it was frustrating that such a plan had been floated on the day of a General Practice Crisis Summit in Canberra.

“There are critical issues facing general practice with years of underfunding pushing significant numbers of GPs to retire early, while fewer doctors are choosing general practice as a specialty,” he said.

“Governments need to come to the table with viable solutions to support general practice and build collaborative models — not changes that completely undervalue the quality of care that is provided through general practice and fragmented patient care.

“This dangerous experiment signals a lack of respect for general practice and the years of training, experience and knowledge required to properly diagnose and treat a medical condition. If implemented in NSW it will have dire consequences for the future of the workforce.”

Professor Robson was also interviewed this week on the National Cabinet decision to scrap all mandatory COVID-19 isolation requirements, which he called a “let-it-rip” policy.

He told Channel 10 News First that there was a major upswing in cases in the Northern Hemisphere as Australia headed for the summer holiday season and it was “too early” to be relaxing restrictions while there were still more than 200 deaths a week from COVID.

Professor Robson said, “We know the vaccination rate in Australia and boosting has totally been bogged in the mud and we are very concerned that Australia is going into another very big wave just at a time we are recovering from another big wave.”

Scams Awareness Week 2022

October 10, 2022: Scamwatch
Scams Awareness Week 2022 takes place 7-11 November. This Scams Awareness Week we’re encouraging you to learn ways to identify scams and take the time to check whether an offer or contact is genuine before you act on it.

With scammers continually developing new ways to catch people out, we need to increase our vigilance in checking for those little clues that can alert us that something is a scam.

Scams cost Australian consumers, businesses, and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year and cause serious emotional harm to victims and their families.

In 2021 Australians made more than 286,600 reports to Scamwatch and reported losses of around $324 million. By the end of August this year, Australians had lost even more with reported losses of over $381 million.

As alarming as these numbers are, we know that around one third of people who are scammed never tell anyone, so the true numbers are probably much higher.

Visit this page during Scams Awareness Week for more information and tips on how to protect yourself from scams.

Scamwatch tools and resources
The Scamwatch and ACCC websites contain a range of tools and resources about scams.

Remote access scams
Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and that you need to buy new software to fix the problem.

Attempts to gain your personal information
Scammers use all kinds of sneaky approaches to steal your personal details. Once obtained, they can use your identity to commit fraudulent activities such as using your credit card or opening a bank account.

Identity theft
Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.

Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out your personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.

Hacking occurs when a scammer gains access to your personal information by using technology to break into your computer, mobile device or network.

Learn how to protect against scams
Being aware of scammers is necessary to avoid becoming the victim of one. Once you know their tricks, you are more likely to be able to spot a scam.  

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. The Australian Government's free Be Connected training program holds free online presentations to help you navigate the online world safely.

The online presentations help build your digital skills and keep you safer online. Presentation topics include how to protect yourself against scams and how to use smart home technology.  

Visit the Be Connected website to secure your spot at one of their upcoming presentations.  

Topics include: 
  • Protect yourself against scams 
  • Online shopping and banking
  • Helpful apps for your smart device 
  • How to use home smart technology 
  • Selling safely online 

Dozens Of New Businesses Offer Discounts To Seniors

Dozens of new businesses have signed up to the NSW Seniors Card program to offer seniors discounts on everything from retail to travel and health services.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said more than 140 new firms have joined the Seniors Card program, which will help ease cost of living pressures on seniors while providing a boost to many small businesses.

“This is one of several NSW Government initiatives to help seniors with cost of living pressures including toll relief and energy rebates,” Mr Kean said.

“The Seniors Card for over-60s has thousands of discounts covering groceries, tradies, holidays, insurance and services such as accountants and medical care. Businesses signing up to the program get more people through the door so it’s a win-win.”

Among the new businesses joining the program are dental surgeries, pubs and hotels, health and wellness centres and home cleaning service providers.

Minister for Seniors Mark Coure said the over 140 new additions join more than 6,500 businesses already helping ease the cost of living for seniors across retail, food and beverage, travel, and professional services.

“Each and every one are offering a range of discounts to cardholders, some even up to 30 per cent. This means seniors are able to take some pressure off the household budget and keep more money in their back pocket,” Mr Coure said.

“I encourage more businesses to sign up and open their door to more than 1.9 million seniors across NSW.”

Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said that over 120,000 customers had already opted in for the Digital Seniors Card since its launch in April, with a customer satisfaction rate of about 90 per cent.

“Importantly, seniors will be able to make their dollar go further by accessing great discounts and savings, adding to the almost $7 billion NSW customers have already saved through the savings finder,” Mr Dominello said.

“We are working to improve and uplift the experience for all seniors across NSW through the Digital Seniors Card program and we will have more to share next month.”

For a full list of discounts available via the NSW Seniors Card, or for businesses to join the program, visit

In addition to the NSW Seniors Card, there are more than 70 discounts and rebates available through the Savings Finder Program available on the Service NSW website. Those without internet access can make an appointment with a savings specialist at a Service NSW centre or by calling 13 77 88.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Update

October 13, 2022: National Seniors
As we know from the popularity of the National Seniors Concession Calculator, seniors strongly value the concessions offered to them via state, territory, local and federal governments.   

One of the main concession cards in Australia is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). This card is available to low-income self-funded retirees who meet income test eligibility rules.   

During the recent election, the Coalition and Labor promised to increase the income test thresholds so that Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders could access health care and other concessions.   

Because this increase required legislative change, there was a delay. Increased income test thresholds have been delayed further because an unrelated amendment forced the legislation to be sent to the lower house. 

What are the changes?
Under current eligibility rules, you can access the CSHC if your income is below a certain threshold:  
  • Singles: $61,284 a year 
  • Couples (combined): $98,054 a year 
Under the proposed changes, you will be able to earn up to the following thresholds:  
  • Singles: $90,000 a year 
  • Couples (combined): $144,000 a year 
Assessable income under the CSHC income test includes a combination of actual income and deemed income from your assets.  

Adjusted taxable income comprises of:  
  • Taxable income
  • Target foreign income  
  • Total net investment losses  
  • Employer-provided benefits 
Reportable superannuation contributions. 
Deemed income from assets is only from account-based income streams (not from any other financial assets you own). An account-based income stream is purchased with superannuation money, commonly known as an allocated or transition to retirement pension.  

While regular deeming rates are 0.25 per cent for the first $53,600 of your financial assets and 2.25 per cent for anything over $53,600, non-pensioners are deemed at a slightly different rate.   

If you are a couple and neither gets a pension, your joint financial assets are deemed to earn 0.25 per cent up to $44,500. Anything over $44,500 is deemed to earn 2.25 per cent. 

Why the delay?
After the legislation was passed in the lower house using the government’s majority, it was sent to the Senate for approval. It was here that an amendment to the legislation was put forward by the Coalition and supported by the crossbench.  

The amendment included changes to the current Work Bonus limit to allow pensioners to earn double what they currently can without affecting their pension.  

While National Seniors supports changes to income test rules, we were disappointed this has led to a delay in passing the CSHC changes. 

We would prefer to see the original CSHC legislation passed at the beginning of the next sitting so eligible retirees access concessions as soon as possible.

Once changes to income test rules are passed, we would like to see Labor, the Coalition, and crossbench consider our proposal to trial an opt-in income test exemption. The opt-in income test exemption would be for pensioners who want to work in the Health and Social Assistance Sector as a first step in easing labour shortages.

The workforce crisis is growing, so we need to move fast to mobilise workers now.  

The latest job figures show there are more than 74,000 vacancies in the care sector, so there is no time to lose. The Albanese government said it wants to put the care back into aged care, and there's now a way to do it.  

COTA Calls For Action To Mark Ageism Awareness Day

Australians must take action to address the scourge of ageism and governments at all levels have key leadership roles to play, including the Federal Government at the national levels, says the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the peak body for older Australians.

The call marks Ageism Awareness Day (7 October 2022) – a day designed to draw attention to the widespread existence and impacts of ageism in Australia and globally.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said that while Australia has taken some steps in learning how to end ageism, there here is still a very long way to go.

“Ageism is endemic in Australia,” Mr Yates said. 

“The Australian Human Rights Commission last year found that 90 per cent of Australians agree that ageism exists in this country, yet we are still yet to see some of the simple, concrete measures that older Australians have been asking for put in place to address this critical issue.

Mr Yates said the new Federal Government has the opportunity to take a number of steps over the coming year to address ageism, including:
  • establishing a Productivity Commission inquiry into the prevalence and costs of ageism in Australia, including particular terms of reference in relation to workplaces and health services; and
  • introducing stronger age discrimination laws following a high priority inquiry  by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
“Ageism is costing Australia  dearly as a society, both from an economic and a social perspective. Conducting a broad reaching inquiry into the costs of ageism is an important starting point and something the Federal Government could then move on swiftly.

“Our Age Discrimination Laws are also failing to deliver, are not fit for purpose, and need major upscaling  We need an inquiry conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission into the barriers and solutions to tackling ageism and age discrimination and to recommend legislation for tackling this.

“For far too long ageism has been an accepted form of discrimination in Australia. It’s time we stopped accepting ageism and negative messages about ageing and started taking proactive steps to address the problem.

“People of all ages, including older Australians, should be valued and respected and have their contributions acknowledged. Throughout their lives, from start to finish.”

New Alzheimer’s drug slows cognitive decline – and may be available as early as next year

Bernadette McGuinnessQueen's University Belfast and Elizabeth CoulthardUniversity of Bristol

Lecanemab is the first drug to help improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s by slowing the disease. These are very promising results, although the only data we have at the moment is from the drugmaker’s press release.

Lecanemab is an antibody that finds and removes a protein called amyloid that builds up and forms clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. By targeting amyloid, lecanemab is striking at the heart of the disease itself, rather than just treating symptoms by boosting brain chemicals in the cells that are still working (as is the case with drugs currently prescribed for Alzheimer’s).

Previous antibody drugs to remove amyloid have not worked, or have generated mixed results. As there are lots of other abnormal proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, the failure of the amyloid antibody trials led to a debate about whether amyloid really is an important problem in Alzheimer’s disease.

This debate is now over. Regardless of whether other biological processes are important in the development of Alzheimer’s, the data from the phase 3 lecanemab trial tells us that amyloid is a central problem in the disease. This will help focus future investment in clinical trials and laboratory research.

Eisai, the maker of lecanemab, has already filed for “accelerated approval” with the US Food and Drug Administration. If all goes to plan, the drug could be licensed as early as January 2023. But there are important questions still to be answered, even if the final published data is exactly as it is in the press release.

The amyloid hypothesis explained

Hurdles Still To Overcome

There is a small risk of significant side-effects with lecanemab, including brain swelling and bleeding. Most people are unaware when this happens to them, but around 3% suffer small bleeds in the brain.

We do not yet know the severity of these bleeds. It may well be that doctors will be able to predict who is likely to develop them, but it will take a few years of giving the drug in clinical practice to better understand the side-effects and how best to manage them.

People who are prescribed the drug will need regular MRI scans to check for brain swelling or bleeding. These are enormous new healthcare costs, and we have no idea yet how much the drug itself will cost.

Another hurdle is identifying people with early-stage Alzheimer’s who might benefit from this drug. This means doctors need to ensure people are referred to memory clinics as early as possible. Many of these people with mild memory symptoms won’t have Alzheimer’s disease. (Who hasn’t had a mild memory lapse?)

To identify patients who actually have Alzheimer’s disease, doctors will need to use new blood tests. And, with recent advances, doctors are on the cusp of being able to do this.

The way the drug is currently given (intravenously via a cannula twice a month) could also be off-putting for many patients. However, Eisai is developing a formulation so that lecanemab can be injected into the fat layer under the skin – like an insulin injection – which may encourage more people to use the drug.

Cost V Benefit

So is the benefit worth the risk and cost? Lecanemab slowed the rate of cognitive decline in people with mild cognitive impairment and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease by 27% over 18 months. This effect is similar to that seen with current drugs (cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine), but these drugs don’t affect the underlying causes of the disease.

If the effects of lecanemab remain stable for longer than 18 months, a patient with mild cognitive impairment who is destined to have six years of independent life, without treatment, could gain around 19 extra months of independent life. But will patients and regulators view this reward as worth the potential risk of side-effects?

We should have answers to these questions fairly soon. But, in the meantime, we can celebrate the fact that we finally have proof that amyloid is a causal factor in the most common form of dementia. And after many years of slow progress, that’s something to be excited about, as it shows that dementia researchers have been on the right track all along.The Conversation

Bernadette McGuinness, Clinical Professor of Ageing, Queen's University Belfast and Elizabeth Coulthard, Associate Professor in Dementia Neurology, University of Bristol

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

‘A rebuke to Putin’s dictatorship’: Russian human rights group Memorial wins joint Nobel peace prize

Robert HorvathLa Trobe University

It’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of the inclusion of the Memorial Society, the Russian human rights movement, among the recipients of this year’s Nobel peace prize, which also recognised human rights campaigners in Ukraine and Belarus.

The award to Memorial is a powerful rebuke to Putin’s dictatorship, comparable to the honouring of Carl von Ossietzky, the German peace and human rights campaigner, who was languishing in Dachau concentration camp when he learned of his prize in 1936.

Like Ossietzky, Memorial embodies resistance to the radical evil of modern totalitarianism.

Born Under ‘Perestroika’

What makes Memorial so important is its fusion of painful historical reflection and human rights activism.

It all started in 1987, during the heady days of Gorbachev’s perestroika, as a petition campaign for the construction of a monument to the victims of Stalinism. As the USSR advanced towards liberalisation and collapse, these petitioners united with prominent dissidents and younger activists to create a grassroots movement.

This convergence was symbolised by the election of the legendary dissident Andrei Sakharov as Memorial’s first chairman. Under Sakharov, Memorial’s agenda expanded to include investigation of the entire Soviet past and the defence of human rights.

During the years that followed, it played a crucial role in the drafting and implementation of Russia’s Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, which offered compensation to survivors of Soviet terror.

No less important were Memorial’s efforts to limit the carnage that followed the breakdown of the Soviet empire.

During the 1990s, Memorial’s Human Rights Centre was renowned for its monitoring of flashpoints in the Caucasus and Central Asia. When President Boris Yeltsin invaded the breakaway republic of Chechnya in late 1994, a monitoring team from Memorial was on the ground, issuing a stream of reports from the capital Grozny as it was devastated by Russian bombardment.

For exposing the horrors of Yeltsin’s war, Memorial’s monitors were vilified as traitors by Russian nationalist politicians. One of the most vociferous was Duma deputy and filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin. He claimed Memorial’s report exposing a massacre in the Chechen village of Samashki “could only have been composed in a drunken ecstasy of Russophobia”.

On The Front Lines

When Vladimir Putin unleashed a new war to subjugate Chechnya in 1999-2003, Memorial was once again on the front lines. Natalya Estemirova, the head of Memorial’s Grozny office, worked closely with journalist Anna Politkovskaya and lawyer Stanislav Markelov to expose the filtration camps, torture, and disappearances of Putin’s “dirty war”. They even secured the conviction of two Russian war criminals, Sergei Lapin and Yurii Budanov.

Each paid a terrible price for this activism. Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006, followed by Markelov and Estemirova in 2009.

As it focused a spotlight on Chechnya, Memorial also challenged the Putin regime’s central ideological project: the indoctrination of youth with an authoritarian version of the national past.

From 1999 to 2021, Memorial conducted a nationwide high school essay competition, “The Individual and History: Russia in the 20th century”, which encouraged honest, independent research. The best submissions, published in a series of Memorial volumes, drew on oral history and archival research to illuminate the human suffering behind the Kremlin’s whitewashed version of the totalitarian past.

Memorial also created new rituals of remembrance. Every year, it marked October 30 as the “Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Political Repressions”. In ceremonies around the country, activists would read out names from lists of the multitudes who had been killed in the Soviet regime’s penitentiary system.

Memorial also tried to inscribe the memory of these people on the urban landscape of Russian cities. The “Last Address” campaign has installed hundreds of steel plaques on buildings commemorating residents who vanished during Stalin’s terror.

Increasing Hostility

The Kremlin’s hostility to Memorial became clear during the crackdown that followed pro-democracy protests in 2011-12. A raid on its Moscow headquarters by officials from three government agencies in March 2013 signalled the beginning of a war of attrition that intensified after Russia’s first attack on Ukraine in 2014.

Memorial condemned the invasion of Crimea as

a crime […] not only against Ukraine, but also against Russia, against Russian culture and Russian history.

Three months later, the Kremlin retaliated by designating Memorial a “foreign agent” under a new law that was suffocating Russia’s civil society.

This stigmatisation had two effects. First, it undermined Memorial’s ability to represent citizens in their dealings with officialdom. Second, it enabled the authorities to fine Memorial on every occasion it failed to acknowledge its status as a “foreign agent”.

The label was also a signal to the regime’s proxies. Every public event organised by Memorial now faced disruption by hired hecklers. The most notorious incident took place in 2016, when thugs from the Kremlin-backed “National Liberation Movement” disrupted the annual prize-giving ceremony for essay competition winners. They hurled abuse at arriving high school students and sprayed noxious cleaning fluid into the face of one of the judges, the renowned novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya.

No less sinister was the prosecution of several leading Memorial activists on fabricated criminal charges. Yurii Dmitriev, the distinguished historian and head of the Karelia branch, is now serving a 13-year prison sentence for sexual assault after a series of farcical trials that earned international condemnation.

There’s a clear connection between the outlawing of Memorial and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine two months later. Speaking at the court hearing that ordered Memorial’s liquidation in December 2021, the prosecutor accused Memorial of “making us repent for the Soviet past”.

As long as Memorial was drawing attention to the horrors of that past – the lacerated lives, mass killings, and deportations of entire nations – it was a potent barrier to the kind of genocidal war Russia is waging in Ukraine.

Yet it was easier to ban an organisation than to destroy the ideals it represents. Even in Russia’s increasingly totalitarian environment, the people of Memorial have continued to oppose war and defend human rights.

By honouring Memorial’s struggles and sacrifices, the Nobel Committee reminds us that Putin’s claims to speak in the name of an entire culture are a lie. It reminds us to listen to the voices of the persecuted and to be aware of humane possibilities in Russian society that will outlive the dictator and his despotism.The Conversation

Robert Horvath, Senior lecturer, La Trobe University

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

Doors Officially Opened On State-Of-The-Art Engineering Innovation Hub In Parramatta

October 7, 2022
Western Sydney University, Charter Hall and UNSW Sydney have celebrated the official opening of the $300 million world-class ‘Engineering Innovation Hub’ – a world-leading engineering and industry innovation precinct in the heart of Parramatta designed to blend state-of-the-art commercial and education facilities and deliver the next generation of engineers, architects and entrepreneurial leaders for Western Sydney and the nation.

Attending the opening ceremony to mark the major milestone on Thursday 6 October were:
  • NSW Premier, the Hon. Dominic Perrottet MP
  • Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover AO
  • Charter Hall Managing Director & Group CEO, Mr David Harrison
  • Vice-President, Operations at UNSW Sydney, Mr Andrew Walters
  • General Manager Sydney and Major Projects at Richard Crookes Constructions, Mr Grant D’Arcy.
A major investment in the Western Sydney region, the 21-storey Engineering Innovation Hub is located at 6 Hassall Street and firmly embedded in the civic centre of the Parramatta CBD. Featuring state-of-the-art, digitally infused education, commercial, retail, and co-working facilities, the building has been specifically designed to promote knowledge sharing and to create meaningful connections between universities, industry, and the community.

Teaching programs offered at the new campus include a collaborative joint engineering degree, developed and delivered in partnership with UNSW, as well as courses in architecture, industrial design, and entrepreneurship. It is home to Western Sydney University’s world-leading research programs such as the Urban Transformations Research Centre and the University’s tech start-up incubator, LaunchPad.

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover AO, said the Engineering Innovation Hub is a milestone achievement – truly transformative infrastructure for Parramatta that fosters all-important innovation in the engineering sector and delivers positive outcomes for the whole community.

“The Engineering Innovation Hub is creating unparalleled opportunities to collaborate across disciplines and across industries – a world-class innovation precinct that is driving academic excellence and promoting economic growth across the whole western Sydney region,” said Professor Glover.

“This campus provides an exceptional teaching and work-integrated learning environment for our students, with the chance to leverage knowledge-jobs and research and development opportunities arising from the large-scale infrastructure and engineering investments across the region, including the new airport at Bradfield, the Sydney West Metro, and the Parramatta Light Rail. It is also fostering important research collaborations with business and industry and developing an innovation ecosystem for Western Sydney.”

Charter Hall Managing Director & Group CEO, Mr David Harrison, said, “We are proud of this outstanding investment in the heart of Parramatta, which Charter Hall will own long term after a successful joint venture development with Western Sydney University.”

“In addition to expanding our continued partnership with Western Sydney University, we are pleased to welcome valued tenant customers in CBHS Health Fund, Pepper Money and Hitachi Construction Machinery Australia who will play a vital role in creating a future-ready and resilient precinct where commerce and learning collide to create the next generation of industry leaders in Western Sydney,” said Mr Harrison.

UNSW Sydney’s Vice-President Operations, Mr Andrew Walters said “UNSW and Western Sydney University are of the firm belief that we are well positioned to support the priorities and needs of the State Government and the people of Greater Western Sydney. And we relish the opportunity to be a driving force in this critical region’s success.”

With limited office space remaining, the A-grade building boasts Parramatta’s highest level of tenant and academic amenities. The flexible and smart building was designed by joint venture architects Blight Rayner and Tzannes in conjunction with Richard Crookes Constructions as the construction partner and Hassell delivering the fitout for Western Sydney University.

Cutting-edge in both design and construction, the stunning campus comprises 29,000 square metres across 21 floors. A dramatic vertical steel stair connects through a triple height void from basement and ground through to level 6 of the building. Ultra-flexible spaces blur the lines between traditional university and commercial office environments – designed to promote creativity and encourage collaboration among students, researchers, industry partners, tenants and community.

A smart building in every sense, intuitive technology both now and into the future is at the heart of the future-ready precinct, including smartphone lift call capability; touchless smart bathroom amenities for a healthier work environment; cyber security integration; and electric vehicle charging stations.

With Western Sydney University recently named number one in the world for its social, ecological, and economic impact in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, sustainability has been key, with all building elements designed to minimise embodied energy in their manufacture and selected with a whole-of-life approach in mind.

The Engineering Innovation Hub is Western Sydney University’s second major campus in the Parramatta CBD after the Peter Shergold Building which was opened in 2017 in Parramatta Square and also developed in partnership with Charter Hall. The Engineering Innovation Hub is a part of the University’s Western Growth strategy – an ambitious program that is co-creating cities and transformative educational infrastructure across Western Sydney, in partnership with industry and government.

Impact-driven research and innovation is a key feature of the $300 million Engineering Innovation Hub (EIH). Learn more about the University’s world-leading research, innovation and engagement activities based at the campus here

The NSW Premier, the Hon. Dominic Perrottet MP and Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover AO officially open the $300 million 'Engineering Innovation Hub'.

Frasers Property Awards 2022 Architecture Scholarship For Women

October 7, 2022
Frasers Property Australia has named university graduate Maryann Aziz the second recipient of its $60,000 scholarship designed to encourage more women to advance their careers in architecture.

The Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) Scholarship for Women is worth $30,000 per year across the two-year Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) course at Western Sydney University and is open to both full-time and part-time students who have completed undergraduate studies in architecture.

“I’m the first woman in my immediate family to study architecture,” Maryann says.

“Mum’s uncle was one of the first architects in my home country, who established many buildings there. So, it’s a huge honour to be doing this.”

Maryann believes that architecture is different from most other disciplines in that it reflects human diversity and brings people together, citing the Green Square Library in inner Sydney as one such example.

“The forms are quite simple, but the way it draws people in and becomes a meeting place for the city, I think is so beautiful,” Maryann says.

Following the completion of her studies, Maryann hopes to follow in the footsteps of her idol, British-Iraqi architect Dame Zaha Hadid, one of the first women to break the glass ceiling within the architecture industry worldwide.

“I really hope that in the coming years, the industry is celebrated as much for its diversity as it is for its creativity,” she says.

It is a vision shared by Frasers Property Australia, explains Nicholle Sparkes, General Manager Delivery and Operations.

“Architecture, and the wider property industry, have long been male-dominated, which is why initiatives such as the Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) Scholarship for Women are so important – to encourage and support more women into the field,” says Ms Sparkes.

“Diversity enriches everything we do, from our daily working lives to the built environments we create for current and future generations.

“As a WGEA (Workplace Gender Equality Act) Employer of Choice, and one of the only property-related companies in Australia to achieve this citation, Frasers Property is proud to continue as a sponsor of the scholarship and encourage more talented women like Maryann to forge successful careers in our industry.”

Dean of the School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment, Professor Mike Kagioglou, commended Frasers Property Australia for their ongoing commitment to the next generation of female architects and offered his congratulations to Maryann.

"Western Sydney University is incredibly proud to partner with Frasers Property Australia on the Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) Scholarship for Women which is supporting a second talented student,” says Professor Mike Kagioglou.

“The scholarship will connect Maryann to one of Australia’s leading property developers with strong connections to Sydney’s west, providing valuable support and professional development opportunities.”

Maryann is the second recipient of the Frasers Property Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) Scholarship for Women, after Sarah Abu Dareb was awarded the inaugural scholarship in October 2020.

Now in the final stages of her Masters degree, Sarah also congratulated Maryann and wished her all the best with her studies.

“The Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation) Scholarship for Women helped shape my academic development, provided me with an opportunity to embark on my career as an urban designer and heightened my confidence in the field,” says Sarah.

“I have no doubt that Maryann, too, is able to use this wonderful opportunity for her academic growth and build her career in the design industry."

Western Sydney University’s Master of Architecture (Urban Transformation), led jointly by Chair of Architecture, Professor Paul Sanders and Professor Peter Poulet, is the only course of its kind in western Sydney and offers students access to real-world learning opportunities, including Australia’s once-in-a generation infrastructure projects underway such as the Aerotropolis that are set to transform the western Sydney region.

New Survey: 91% Of Parents Say Their Family Is Less Stressed When They Eat Together

October 10, 2022
Chronic, constant stress can increase lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke, but a new survey from the American Heart Association, a global force for longer, healthier lives for all, reveals regular mealtime with others could be a simple solution to help manage stress.

Of the 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide surveyed in September 2022 for the American Heart Association's Healthy for GoodTM movement by Wakefield Research, the vast majority (84%) say they wish they could share a meal more often with loved ones, and nearly all parents report lower levels of stress among their family when they regularly connect over a meal.

To make mealtime togetherness a little easier and help people claim the heart mind and body benefits that go with it, the American Heart Association will share practical and budget-friendly meal tips each Tuesday through December. People can follow #TogetherTuesday on social media or text 2gether to 51555 to get tips sent directly to their phone.

"Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduces stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids," said Erin Michos, M.D, M.H.S, American Heart Association volunteer, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the American Heart Association's statement on Psychological Health, Well-being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection. "Chronic, constant stress can also increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important for people to find ways to reduce and manage stress as much as possible, as soon as possible."

Connecting with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors benefits people beyond stress relief. In fact, the survey found 67% of people say sharing a meal remind them of the importance of connecting with other people, and 54% say it reminds them to slow down and take a break.

Those surveyed say they are more likely (59%) to make healthier food choices when eating with other people but have difficulty aligning schedules with their friends or family to do so, according to the survey. Overall, respondents reported eating alone about half of the time.

"We know it's not always as easy as it sounds to get people together at mealtime. Like other healthy habits, give yourself permission to start small and build from there," Michos said. "Set a goal to gather friends, family or coworkers for one more meal together each week. If you can't get together in person, think about how you can share a meal together over the phone or a computer."

The American Heart Association's survey also identified the majority (65%) of adults say they are at least somewhat stressed and more than a quarter (27%) are extremely or very stressed. Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) of survey respondents who are employed full or part-time said they would feel less stressed at work if they had more time to take a break and share a meal with a co-worker.

Icare Announces New Claims Service Providers For Workers Compensation Scheme

October 6, 2022
The NSW Government has announced the selection of six Claim Service Providers to manage claims in the Nominal Insurer (NI) scheme. 

The government states that following wide consultation on a new claims model and a comprehensive tender process, Allianz, Employers Mutual Limited (EML), DXC, Gallagher Bassett (GB), GIO, and QBE have been appointed to manage claims for the NSW NI workers compensation scheme.

Minister for Finance Damien Tudehope said this is a significant milestone in the program to improve workers compensation and the next step in a major reset of the scheme that will improve outcomes for injured workers, give employers greater choice, and increase financial sustainability over time.

“This new model is about improving performance and care for injured workers alongside greater support for employers,” Mr Tudehope said.

“Appointing this mix of quality claims service providers builds new capability and capacity in the system and is a key step towards providing a more specialised response to the growing incidence of psychological injury.”

Demonstrating the strong focus on psychological claims, icare is also exploring the future appointment of a dedicated psychological claims provider to deliver innovative and targeted psychological claims services. icare is also establishing an internal team that will develop and trial new approaches to psychological claims that can then be rolled out to all claim service providers.

icare CEO and Managing Director Richard Harding said improving outcomes for injured workers is the top priority for icare and highlighted the importance of addressing the growing number of psychological claims.

“When it comes to supporting those with psychological injuries it’s important to understand the vastly different challenges they face,” Mr Harding said.

“Four providers will provide specialist psychological claims capability as well as general injury claims capability. We’ll also bolster our approach to psychological claims management with an internal team dedicated to improving psychological claims outcomes and potential additional appointments to our provider panel in the future.

“In addition to uplifting the management of psychological claims, the new contracts will also enable icare to drive better performance through competition via publicly reporting provider results and making it easier for businesses to choose a provider who can give their injured worker the best care.”

Subject to contract execution, the changes will be progressively implemented from early 2023, with more details to be provided over coming months.

Contracts with current Claims Service Providers Allianz, EML, GIO, and QBE, will end on 31 December 2022 and the new contracts will commence on 1 January 2023.

The new contracts will be for 10 years, subject to provider performance. Further providers may be brought on to the panel at a future date.

Considering feedback from a range of stakeholders and lessons from past experience, the changes will be rolled out at a measured pace over the next two years to minimise the impact on injured workers and employers.

This implementation aligns with the measured and staged approach recommended by the McDougall Review.

The new claims model is part of an extensive improvement program underway at icare. It builds on actions that have already occurred including recruitment of more case managers to improve support, piloting a ‘first response’ service for small to medium employers that support early return to work planning, and launching of a Professional Standards Framework that provides case managers with learning and career pathways to further strengthen industry-wide capability, expertise and capacity.

New System Retrofits Diesel Engines To Run On 90 Per Cent Hydrogen

October 7, 2022
Team from UNSW Engine Research Laboratory develop new Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System that significantly cuts carbon emissions.

The Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System has been developed by a team from the UNSW Engine Research Laboratory led by Professor Shawn Kook (right), and including Xinyu Liu (back left) and Jinxin Yang (front left). Photo from Prof. Shawn Kook

Engineers from UNSW Sydney have successfully converted a diesel engine to run as a hydrogen-diesel hybrid engine – reducing CO2 emissions by more than 85 per cent in the process.

The team, led by Professor Shawn Kook from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, spent around 18 months developing the Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System that means existing diesel engines can run using 90 per cent hydrogen as fuel.

The researchers say that any diesel engine used in trucks and power equipment in the transportation, agriculture and mining industries could ultimately be retrofitted to the new hybrid system in just a couple of months.

Green hydrogen, which is produced using clean renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, is much more environmentally friendly than diesel.

The Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System developed at UNSW enables a traditional diesel engine to be retrofitted to run as a hydrogen-diesel hybrid engine. Photo by Prof. Shawn Kook

And in a paper published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Prof. Kook’s team show that using their patented hydrogen injection system reduces CO2 emissions to just 90 g/kWh – 85.9 per cent below the amount produced by the diesel powered engine.

“This new technology significantly reduces CO2 emissions from existing diesel engines, so it could play a big part in making our carbon footprint much smaller, especially in Australia with all our mining, agriculture and other heavy industries where diesel engines are widely used,” says Prof. Kook.

“We have shown that we can take those existing diesel engines and convert them into cleaner engines that burn hydrogen fuel.

“Being able to retrofit diesel engines that are already out there is much quicker than waiting for the development of completely new fuel cell systems that might not be commercially available at a larger scale for at least a decade. 

“With the problem of carbon emissions and climate change, we need some more immediate solutions to deal with the issue of these many diesel engines currently in use.”

High-pressure hydrogen direct injection
The UNSW team’s solution to the problem maintains the original diesel injection into the engine, but adds a hydrogen fuel injection directly into the cylinder.

The collaborative research, performed with Dr Shaun Chan and Professor Evatt Hawkes, found that specifically timed hydrogen direct injection controls the mixture condition inside the cylinder of the engine, which resolves harmful nitrogen oxide emissions that have been a major hurdle for commercialisation of hydrogen engines.

“If you just put hydrogen into the engine and let it all mix together you will get a lot of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which is a significant cause of air pollution and acid rain,” Prof. Kook says.

“But we have shown in our system if you make it stratified – that is in some areas there is more hydrogen and in others there is less hydrogen – then we can reduce the NOx emissions below that of a purely diesel engine.”

Importantly, the new Hydrogen-Diesel Direct Injection Dual-Fuel System does not require extremely high purity hydrogen which must be used in alternative hydrogen fuel cell systems and is more expensive to produce.

And compared to existing diesel engines, an efficiency improvement of more than 26 per cent has been shown in the diesel-hydrogen hybrid.

That improved efficiency is achieved by independent control of hydrogen direct injection timing, as well as diesel injection timing, enabling full control of combustion modes – premixed or mixing-controlled hydrogen combustion.

The research team hope to be able to commercialise the new system in the next 12 to 24 months and are keen to consult with prospective investors.

They say the most immediate potential use for the new technology is in industrial locations where permanent hydrogen fuel supply lines are already in place.

That includes mining sites, where studies have shown that about 30 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by the use of diesel engines, largely in mining vehicles and power generators.

And the Australian market for diesel-only power generators is currently estimated to be worth around $765 million.

“At mining sites, where hydrogen is piped in, we can convert the existing diesel engines that are used to generate power,” says Prof. Kook.

“In terms of applications where the hydrogen fuel would need to be stored and moved around, for example in a truck engine that currently runs purely on diesel, then we would also need to implement a hydrogen storage system to be integrated into our injection system.

“I do think the general technology with regards to mobile hydrogen storage needs to be developed further because at the moment that is quite a challenge.”

Report by Neil Martin, UNSW

Positive Childhood Experiences Of Blue Spaces Linked To Better Adult Well-Being

October 10, 2022
New research based on data from 18 countries concludes that adults with better mental health are more likely to report having spent time playing in and around coastal and inland waters, such as rivers and lakes (also known collectively as blue spaces) as children. The finding was replicated in each of the countries studied.

Mounting evidence shows that spending time in and around green spaces such as parks and woodlands in adulthood is associated with stress reduction and better mental health. However, we know far less about the benefits of blue spaces, or the role childhood contact has in these relationships in later life.

Data came from the BlueHealth International Survey (BIS), a cross-sectional survey co-ordinated by the University of Exeter's European Centre for Environment and Human Health. The current analysis used data from over 15,000 people across 14 European Countries and 4 other non-European countries/regions (Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and California).

Respondents were asked to recall their blue space experiences between the ages of 0-16 years including how local they were, how often they visited them, and how comfortable their parents/guardians were with them playing in these settings, as well as more recent contact with green and blue spaces over the last four weeks, and mental health over the last two weeks.

The research, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that individuals who recalled more childhood blue space experiences tended to place greater intrinsic value on natural settings in general, and to visit them more often as adults -- each of which, in turn, were associated with better mental wellbeing in adulthood.

Valeria Vitale, Lead author and PhD Candidate at Sapienza University of Rome, said: "In the context of an increasingly technological and industrialized world, it's important to understand how childhood nature experiences relate to wellbeing in later life.

"Our findings suggest that building familiarity and confidence in and around blue spaces during childhood may stimulate an inherent joy of nature and encourage people to seek out recreational nature experiences, with beneficial consequences for adult mental health."

Dr Leanne Martin, Co-author and Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter's European Centre for Environment and Human Health, said: "Water settings can be dangerous for children, and parents are right to be cautious. This research suggests though that supporting children to feel comfortable in these settings and developing skills such as swimming at an early age can have previously unrecognised life-long benefits."

Dr Mathew White, Co-author and Senior Scientist at the University of Vienna, said: "The current study is adding to our growing awareness of the need for urban planners and local bodies responsible for managing our green and blue spaces to provide safe, accessible access to natural settings for the healthy mental and physical development of our children.

"If our findings are supported by longitudinal research that tracks people's exposures over the entire life-course, it would suggest that further work, policies and initiatives encouraging more blue space experiences during childhood may be a viable way to support the mental health of future generations."

Valeria Vitale, Leanne Martin, Mathew P. White, Lewis R. Elliott, Kayleigh J. Wyles, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Sabine Pahl, Patricia Stehl, Simon Bell, Gregory N. Bratman, Mireia Gascon, James Grellier, Maria L. Lima, Mare Lõhmus, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Ann Ojala, Jane Taylor, Matilda van den Bosch, Netta Weinstein, Lora E. Fleming. Mechanisms underlying childhood exposure to blue spaces and adult subjective well-being: An 18-country analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2022; 101876 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101876

Why Some Countries Are Leading The Shift To Green Energy

October 6, 2022
Oil and gas prices skyrocketed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in spring 2022, creating a global energy crisis similar to the oil crisis of the 1970s. While some countries used the price shock to accelerate the transition to cleaner sources of energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal, others have responded by expanding the production of fossil fuels.

A new study appearing this week in the journal Science identifies the political factors that allow some countries to take the lead in adopting cleaner sources of energy while others lag behind. The findings offer important lessons as many governments around the world race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the devastating impacts of climate change.

"We are really interested in understanding how national differences mediate the responses of countries to the same kind of energy challenge," said study lead author Jonas Meckling, an associate professor of energy and environmental policy at the University of California, Berkeley. "We found that the political institutions of countries shape how much they can absorb costly policies of all kinds, including costly energy policies."

By analysing how different countries responded to the current energy crisis and to the oil crisis of the 1970s, the study reveals how the structure of political institutions can help or hinder the shift to clean energy. Meckling carried out the analysis in collaboration with study co-authors Phillip Y. Lipscy of the University of Toronto, Jared J. Finnegan of University College London, and Florence Metz of the University of Twente, in the Netherlands.

Because policies that promote the transition to cleaner energy technologies are often costly in the short-term, they can garner significant political pushback from constituents, including consumers and corporations. The analysis found that the countries that were most successful at pioneering cleaner energy technologies had political institutions that helped absorb some of this pushback -- either by insulating policymakers from political opposition or by compensating consumers and corporations for the extra costs associated with adopting new technologies.

For example, Meckling said, many countries in continental and northern Europe have created institutions that allow policymakers to insulate themselves from pushback by voters or lobbyists or to pay off constituencies impacted by the transition. As a result, many of these countries have been more successful at absorbing the costs associated with transitioning to a clean energy system, such as investing in greater wind capacity or upgrading transmission grids.

Meanwhile, countries that lack such institutions, such as the U.S., Australia and Canada, often follow market-driven transitions, waiting for the price of new technologies to drop before adopting them.

"We can expect that countries that can pursue the insulation or compensation path will be early public investors in these very costly technologies that we need for decarbonization, such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon removal technologies," Meckling said. "But once these new technologies become cost competitive in the market, then countries like the U.S. can respond relatively rapidly because they are so sensitive to price signals."

One way to help insulate policymakers from political pushback is to hand over regulatory power to independent agencies that are less subject to the demands of voters or lobbyists. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), a relatively autonomous agency that has been tasked with implementing many of California's climate goals, is a prime example of such an institution. Thanks in part to CARB, California is often considered a global leader in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, despite being a state within the U.S.

Germany, another global climate leader, is instead using compensation to achieve its ambitious climate goals. For example, the Coal Compromise brought together disparate groups -- including environmentalists, coal executives, trade unions and leaders from coal mining regions -- to agree on a plan to phase out coal by the year 2038. To achieve this goal, the country will provide economic support to workers and regional economies that are dependent on coal, while bolstering the job market in other industries.

"We want to show that it's not just resource endowments that shape how countries respond to energy crises, it's also politics," Meckling said.

The U.S., as a whole, does not have strong institutions in place to absorb political opposition to costly energy policies. However, Meckling said that policymakers can still drive the energy transition forward by leveraging the leadership of states like California by focusing on policies that have more dispersed costs and less political opposition -- such as support for energy research and development -- and by clearing the way for the market to adopt new technologies once the cost has gone done.

"Countries like the U.S. that do not have these institutions should at least focus on removing barriers once these clean technologies become cost competitive," Meckling said. "What they can do is reduce the cost for market actors."

Jonas Meckling Phillip Y. LipscyJared J. Finnegan and Florence Metz. Why nations lead or lag in energy transitions Policy-driven change hinges on institutions that support insulation or compensation. Science, 2022 DOI: 10.1126/science.adc9973

Promising Medication For Sleep Apnoea

October 6, 2022
Targeting a condition suffered by nearly a billion people worldwide, a new study from Flinders University has shown a drug previously used to treat depression can reduce obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) severity.

While not yet identifying a cure, the authors say the study opens up further avenues for the development of future drug treatments targeted at the huge number of people unable to tolerate current sleep apnoea therapies, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

"Obstructive sleep apnoea can be a debilitating disease, causing poor quality sleep at night and sleepiness during the day," says study lead author Dr Thomas Altree from FHRMI: Sleep Health (formerly the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health).

"It affects millions of Australians and causes major impacts on health and productivity.

"Recent research found a combination of the medicines reboxetine and oxybutynin, which were both previously used for unrelated conditions, could be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea but can cause side effects.

"We wanted to see if reboxetine on its own could be effective and assess exactly how it changes breathing during sleep."

The team ran a double blind, placebo controlled, randomised, multicentre cross-over trial with collaborators at the Woolcock Institute in Sydney (following a gold standard for drug trials) with 16 people who had OSA. They tested single doses of reboxetine compared to a combination of reboxetine and oxybutynin or placebo.

"Our results showed that reboxetine on its own can reduce sleep apnoea severity," says Dr Altree.

"We found the drug reduced the number of sleep apnoea events per hour and also improved oxygen levels, while the addition of oxybutynin didn't cause additional improvements.

"We also used a state-of-the-art computing method to determine how the drug stabilises breathing during sleep, which allows us to identify which patients might benefit most from the drug in the future."

The team's findings present the first evidence that reboxetine alone reduces OSA severity, and provides further insight into the role of norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors on upper airway stability during sleep.

"The current gold-standard treatment of sleep apnoea is with a CPAP device during sleep. But this one-size-fits-all approach doesn't address the fact that there are different causes for sleep apnoea. In addition, many people can't tolerate CPAP in the long term," says Dr Altree.

"It's therefore important we discover other avenues to assist people, and this study provides an important step for future drug development."

Sleep clinician Dr Tom Altree at Flinders Sleep Health, Bedford Park. Photo: Flinders University

Thomas J. Altree, Atqiya Aishah, Kelly A. Loffler, Ronald R. Grunstein, Danny J. Eckert. The norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor reboxetine alone reduces obstructive sleep apnoea severity: a double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, cross-over trial. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.10256

Sound Reveals Giant Blue Whales Dance With The Wind To Find Food

October 5, 2022
A study by MBARI researchers and their collaborators published today in Ecology Letters sheds new light on the movements of mysterious, endangered blue whales. The research team used a directional hydrophone on MBARI's underwater observatory, integrated with other advanced technologies, to listen for the booming vocalizations of blue whales. They used these sounds to track the movements of blue whales and learned that these ocean giants respond to changes in the wind.

Along California's Central Coast, spring and summer bring coastal upwelling. From March through July, seasonal winds push the top layer of water out to sea, allowing the cold water below to rise to the surface. The cooler, nutrient-rich water fuels blooms of tiny phytoplankton, jumpstarting the food web in Monterey Bay, from small shrimp-like krill all the way to giant whales. When the winds create an upwelling event, blue whales seek out the plumes of cooler water, where krill are most abundant. When upwelling stops, the whales move offshore into habitat that is transected by shipping lanes.

"This research and its underlying technologies are opening new windows into the complex, and beautiful, ecology of these endangered whales," said John Ryan, a biological oceanographer at MBARI and lead author of this study. "These findings demonstrate a new resource for managers seeking ways to better protect blue whales and other species."

The directional hydrophone is a specialized underwater microphone that records sounds and identifies the direction from which they originate. To use this technology to study blue whale movements, researchers needed to confirm that the hydrophone reliably tracked whales. This meant matching the acoustic bearings to a calling whale that was being tracked by GPS. With confidence in the acoustic methods established, the research team examined two years of acoustic tracking of the regional blue whale population.

This study built upon previous research led by MBARI Senior Scientist Kelly Benoit-Bird, which revealed that swarms of forage species -- anchovies and krill -- reacted to coastal upwelling. This time, researchers combined satellite and mooring data of upwelling conditions and echosounder data on krill aggregations with the acoustic tracks of foraging blue whales logged by the directional hydrophone.

"Previous work by the MBARI team found that when coastal upwelling was strongest, anchovies and krill formed dense swarms within upwelling plumes. Now, we've learned that blue whales track these dynamic plumes, where abundant food resources are available," explained Ryan.

Blue whales recognise when the wind is changing their habitat and identify places where upwelling aggregates their essential food -- krill. For a massive animal weighing up to 150 tonnes (165 tons), finding these dense aggregations is a matter of survival.

While scientists have long recognised that blue whales seasonally occupy Monterey Bay during the upwelling season, this research has revealed that the whales closely track the upwelling process on a very fine scale of both space (kilometres) and time (days to weeks).

"Tracking many individual wild animals simultaneously is challenging in any ecosystem. This is especially difficult in the open ocean, which is often opaque to us as human observers," said William Oestreich, previously a graduate student at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station and now a postdoctoral fellow at MBARI. "Integration of technologies to measure these whales' sounds enabled this important discovery about how groups of predators find food in a dynamic ocean. We're excited about the future discoveries we can make by eavesdropping on blue whales and other noisy ocean animals."

Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are the largest animals on Earth, but despite their large size, scientists still have many unanswered questions about their biology and ecology. These gentle giants seasonally gather in the Monterey Bay region to feed on small shrimp-like crustaceans called krill.

Blue whales are elusive animals. They can travel large distances underwater very quickly, making them challenging to track. MBARI researchers and collaborators employed a novel technique for tracking blue whales -- sound.

MBARI's MARS (Monterey Accelerated Research System) observatory offers a platform for studying the ocean in new ways. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the cabled observatory provides continuous power and data connectivity to support a variety of instruments for scientific experiments.

In 2015, MBARI researchers installed a hydrophone, or underwater microphone, on the observatory. The trove of acoustic data from the hydrophone has provided important insights into the ocean soundscape, from the migratory and feeding behaviors of blue whales to the impact of noise from human activities.

In 2019, MBARI and the Naval Postgraduate School installed a second hydrophone on the observatory. The directional hydrophone gives the direction from which a sound originated. This information can reveal spatial patterns for sounds underwater, identifying where sounds came from. By tracking the blue whales' B call -- the most powerful and prevalent vocalization among the regional blue whale population -- researchers could follow the movements of individual whales as they foraged within the region.

Researchers compared the directional hydrophone's recordings to data logged by tags that scientists from Stanford University had previously deployed on blue whales. Validating this new acoustic tracking method opens new opportunities for simultaneously logging the movements of multiple whales. It may also enable animal-borne tag research by helping researchers find whales to tag. "The integrated suite of technologies demonstrated in this paper represents a transformative tool kit for interdisciplinary research and mesoscale ecosystem monitoring that can be deployed at scale throughout protected marine habitats. This is a game changer and brings both cetacean biology and biological oceanography to the next level," said Jeremy Goldbogen, an associate professor at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station and a coauthor of the study.

This new methodology has implications not only for understanding how whales interact with their environment and one another but also for advancing management and conservation.

Despite protections, blue whales remain endangered, primarily from the risk of collisions with ships. This study showed that blue whales in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary regularly occupy habitat transected by shipping lanes. Acoustic tracking of whales may provide real-time information for resource managers to mitigate risk, for example, through vessel speed reduction or rerouting during critical periods. "These kinds of integrated tools could allow us to spatially and temporally monitor, and eventually even predict, ephemeral biological hotspots. This promises to be a watershed advancement in the adaptive management of risks for protected and endangered species," said Brandon Southall, president and senior scientist for Southall Environmental Associates Inc. and a coauthor of the research study.

Support for this research was provided by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The National Science Foundation funded the installation and maintenance of the MARS cabled observatory through awards 0739828 and 1114794. Directional acoustic processing work was supported by the Office of Naval Research, Code 32. Tag work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (IOS-1656676), the Office of Naval Research (N000141612477), and a Terman Fellowship from Stanford University.

John P. Ryan, Kelly J. Benoit‐Bird, William K. Oestreich, Paul Leary, Kevin B. Smith, Chad M. Waluk, David E. Cade, James A. Fahlbusch, Brandon L. Southall, John E. Joseph, Tetyana Margolina, John Calambokidis, Andrew DeVogelaere, Jeremy A. Goldbogen. Oceanic giants dance to atmospheric rhythms: Ephemeral wind‐driven resource tracking by blue whales. Ecology Letters, 2022; DOI: 10.1111/ele.14116   In text image: MBARI researchers and their collaborators have gained important insight into the feeding habits of blue whales. The gentle giants follow wind-driven upwelling to find rich patches of food. Image: Goldbogen Lab/Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab (NMFS Permit 16111)

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.