inbox and environment news: Issue 569

January 29 - February 4 2023: Issue 569

Avian Flu Could Decimate Australian Black Swans

January 22, 2023
The unique genetics of the Australian black swan leaves the species vulnerable to viral illnesses such as avian flu, University of Queensland research has revealed. The UQ-led study has generated a first-ever genome of the black swan which revealed the species lacks some immune genes which help other wild waterfowl combat infectious diseases.

Associate Professor Kirsty Short from UQ's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences said the geographic isolation of Australia's black swans has meant limited exposure to pathogens commonly found in other parts of the world leading to reduced immune diversity.

"Unlike Mallard ducks for example, black swans are extremely sensitive highly pathogenic avian influenza -- HPAI which is often referred to as bird flu -- and can die from it within three days," Dr Short said.

"Our data suggests that the immune system of the black swan is such that, should any avian viral infection become established in its native habitat, their survival would be in peril.

"We currently don't have HPAI in Australia, but it has spread from Asia to North America, Europe, North Africa and South America.

"When it was introduced to new locations, such as Chile and Peru, thousands of wild seabirds perished.

"The risk to one of Australia's most unique and beautiful birds is very real, and we need to be prepared if we hope to protect it."

With the knowledge from the UQ study, Dr Short said researchers and conservationists hope to be able to better protect not only the black swan, but also other susceptible species across the globe.

"We want to increase awareness about how vulnerable Australia's bird species are to avian influenza and the highly precarious situation they are in," Dr Short said.

This research was funded by the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award and was in collaboration with the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP).

Anjana C. Karawita, Yuanyuan Cheng, Keng Yih Chew, Arjun Challagulla, Robert Kraus, Ralf C. Mueller, Marcus Z. W. Tong, Katina D. Hulme, Helle Bielefeldt-Ohmann, Lauren E. Steele, Melanie Wu, Julian Sng, Ellesandra Noye, Timothy J. Bruxner, Gough G. Au, Suzanne Lowther, Julie Blommaert, Alexander Suh, Alexander J. McCauley, Parwinder Kaur, Olga Dudchenko, Erez Aiden, Olivier Fedrigo, Giulio Formenti, Jacquelyn Mountcastle, William Chow, Fergal J. Martin, Denye N. Ogeh, Françoise Thiaud-Nissen, Kerstin Howe, Alan Tracey, Jacqueline Smith, Richard I. Kuo, Marilyn B. Renfree, Takashi Kimura, Yoshihiro Sakoda, Mathew McDougall, Hamish G. Spencer, Michael Pyne, Conny Tolf, Jonas Waldenström, Erich D. Jarvis, Michelle L. Baker, David W. Burt, Kirsty R. Short. The swan genome and transcriptome, it is not all black and white. Genome Biology, 2023; 24 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13059-022-02838-0

 Black Swans on Narrabeen Lagoon - Photo by Michael Mannington OAM

See Issue 568 report: Saving Pittwater from the Chainsaws: Community Forum at Warriewood - Thursday February 2nd 2023, at 7pm + 'Concreting Our Coast: The Developer Onslaught Destroying Our Coastal Villages and Environment' Report Released

Prune Viburnum Hedge Agapanthus Flowers To Prevent Spread Into Bush Reserves

PNHA: January 11, 2023

Now is the time to prune the berries off the Viburnum hedge and dehead those old Agapanthus flowers. Put these prunings  into your green waste bin. Both are now weeds of bushland as their seeds travel.

Photos: Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)

Sydney Wildlife (Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services): Rescue Care Course - February 2023

Our next course starts on the 4th of February. It runs for 3 weeks in a self-paced format online and then a 1 day practical session at the end on the 26th February. Both sessions must be passed to join Sydney Wildlife Rescue and rescue and care for our native wildlife. 

Visit the sign on page for full details:

The cost of the course is $120 and you will receive membership, manuals and equipment to help you. All new members are fully supported with a mentor when they join. Join us and make a difference to the wildlife in your area.

New Marine Wildlife Rescue Group Launched On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit:

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Summer 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.

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

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.

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

Environment Law Fails To Protect Threatened Species In Australia

January 23, 2023

Federal environmental laws are failing to mitigate against Australia's extinction crisis, according to University of Queensland research. UQ PhD candidate Natalya Maitz led a collaborative project which analysed potential habitat loss in Queensland and New South Wales and found the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 (EPBC) Act is not protecting threatened species.

"The system designed to classify development projects according to their environmental impact is more or less worthless," Ms Maitz said.

"There's no statistically significant difference between the amount of threatened habitat destroyed under projects deemed 'significant' or 'not significant' by the national biodiversity regulator."

Under the EPBC Act, individuals or organisations looking to commence projects with a potentially 'significant impact' on protected species must seek further federal review and approval.

Developments deemed unlikely to have a significant impact don't require further commonwealth approval.

"But as the law is currently applied, significant impact projects are clearing just as much species habitat as projects considered low risk," Ms Maitz said.

"If the legislation were effectively protecting threatened habitats, we would expect less environmentally sensitive habitat cleared under the projects classified as unlikely to have a big impact."

The research examined vegetation cleared for projects in areas which provided habitat for threatened species, migratory species and threatened ecological communities in Queensland and New South Wales -- a global deforestation hotspot.

Co-author, Dr Martin Taylor, said that the regulator's 'significant' classification appeared to have no consistent, quantitative basis in decision-making by the regulator.

"Neither the Act itself, nor the regulator, have been able to provide clear, scientifically robust thresholds for what constitutes a significant impact, such as x hectares of habitat for species y destroyed," Dr Taylor said.

"Numerous species have lost a majority of their referred habitat to projects deemed 'non-significant'.

"For example, the tiger quoll lost 82 per cent of its total referred habitat to projects considered unlikely to have a significant impact, while the grey-headed flying-fox lost 72 per cent.

"These species are well on their way to extinction, and the government will not achieve its zero extinctions goal unless these threats are stopped."

Dr Taylor said the research highlights what appears to be inconsistencies in the referral decision-making process, a concern raised in the 2020 Independent Review of the EPBC Act by Graeme Samuel.

"These findings emphasise the importance of considering cumulative impacts and the need to develop scientifically robust thresholds that are applied rigorously and consistently -- factors that need to be considered when drafting the upcoming reforms in order to give Australia's irreplaceable biodiversity a fighting chance," Dr Taylor said.

The Australian Government announced that major reforms will be made to the legislation.

Natalya M. Maitz, Martin F. J. Taylor, Michelle S. Ward, Hugh P. Possingham. Assessing the impact of referred actions on protected matters under Australia's national environmental legislation. Conservation Science and Practice, 2022; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1111/csp2.12860

Grey-headed flying fox skimming water - photo by Andrew Mercer

They’re on our coat of arms but extinct in Tasmania. Rewilding with emus will be good for the island state’s ecosystems

Tristan DerhamUniversity of TasmaniaChristopher JohnsonUniversity of Tasmania, and Matthew FieldingUniversity of Tasmania

The emu is iconically Australian, appearing on canscoinscricket bats and our national coat of arms, as well as that of the Tasmanian capital, Hobart. However, most people don’t realise emus once also roamed Tasmania but are now extinct there.

Where did these Tasmanian emus live? Why did they go extinct? And should we reintroduce them?

Our newly published research combined historical records with population models to find out. We found emus lived across most of eastern Tasmania, including near Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, the Midlands and the east coast. However, in the early days of British occupation, colonists hunting with purpose-bred dogs slaughtered so many emus that the population crashed.

It’s not all bad news, though. Those areas still provide enough good, safe emu habitat to make reintroducing emus from the Australian mainland to Tasmania a realistic option.

Large animals, such as bison, wolves and giant tortoises are already part of global efforts to repair and maintain ecosystems and prevent more extinctions, through the conservation movement known as “rewilding”.

In Tasmania, rewilding with emus might help native plants to cope with a changing climate. As our world warms, the places where conditions are just right for particular plant species are shifting. Those plants must disperse far and fast to keep up. Introducing emus, which disperse many plant seeds in their droppings, could help.

Emus Were Tasmania’s Biggest Herbivores

Emus are the biggest birds in Australia. The females weigh up to a whopping 37 kilograms. But when European sealers and explorers arrived on Australia’s southern islands, they found smaller, shorter emus. According to one estimate, Kangaroo Island emus averaged 24-27kg and King Island emus a mere 20-23kg.

Contrary to local folklore, Tasmanian emus were actually more similar to their mainland cousins. They weighed about 30-34kg (but sometimes up to 40kg).

Along with eastern grey kangaroos, known locally as “foresters”, emus were the biggest herbivores in Tasmania.

Map showing distribution of emus
Emus are found throughout mainland Australia but were driven to extinction on Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and King Island. Source: Ancient DNA Suggests Dwarf and ‘Giant’ Emu Are Conspecific, Heupink et al (2011)CC BY

What Are The Likely Impacts On Ecosystems?

Large herbivores play important roles in ecosystems around the world. By chewing on plants, pushing through vegetation and churning up soil, large animals can create a mosaic of habitat types for other, smaller creatures. They move seeds and nutrients across the landscape and shape the frequency and intensity of fires.

Exactly how emus help ecosystems is a bit of a mystery because so few researchers have looked into it. But we do know emus are very good at seed dispersal. Emus live anywhere, eat anything and swallow their food whole. They walk miles and miles while seeds slowly pass through their gut, to be ejected in a ready-made batch of compost.

Without emus, some plant populations won’t be able to disperse quickly enough to escape the local effects of global warming.

Seeds germinating in a pile of emu poo
Many plant species benefit from being dispersed by emus that swallow their seeds whole and deposit them some distance away in a nutritious pile of ‘poo compost’. Author provided

How Did Tasmania Lose Its Emus?

We know colonists hunted emus and kangaroos in Tasmania. Emus were rarely seen on the island after 1845. But was hunting by a few hungry settlers enough to take out the whole population?

To find out, we recreated the emu population using computer simulations. Then we turned up the hunting pressure.

The signal was clear. Tasmania’s emu population could not sustain a harvest of more than about 1,500 adults per year. This limit was probably exceeded within a decade or two, which makes over-hunting the most likely cause of extinction.

Interestingly, the results of the simulation imply the island’s Indigenous people hunted adult emus at very low rates, less than one per person per year.

Landscape painting showing sheep and emus in the foreground
Emus at Stanley, Tasmania, during the 1840s, in a painting by William Porden Kay. They were rare by the middle of that decade. Wikimedia Commons

Where Can We Reintroduce Emus?

To find safe places for reintroductions, we overlapped emu habitat with current land use. We found large parts of the state that have both good emu habitat and a healthy distance from areas with higher risk of human-emu conflict.

Small-scale, trial introductions could be done in fenced enclosures to learn more about the emus’ needs and their ecological roles.

Indigenous voices are particularly important in conversations about reintroductions, because of the roles such animals play in living traditional cultures. For example, emus have featured in Tasmanian Aboriginal story, dance, song and art for generations. Pakana and Palawa still perform emu dances today.

Such conversations must be had with care, because many Indigenous people are wary of terms such as “rewilding” and “wilderness”. These terms can carry the implication of a land without people, when in fact Australian landscapes have a long and rich history of Indigenous people caring for Country. Even the concept of “wildness” can imply too strong a separation between humans and our non-human kin, and a lack of reciprocity and responsibility.

Australia Has Just Begun Rewilding

Landscapes all over the world have lost large animals that would otherwise be keeping ecosystems healthy and dynamic. European and American conservationists have responded by reintroducing large animals for their ecological and cultural functions.

Rewilding Europe, for example, has reintroduced bison to the Carpathian mountains and primitive horses to Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria and Ukraine. These efforts are placing prehistoric grazing regimes back into a rich cultural landscape.

On islands in the Indian Ocean, giant tortoises have been introduced to replace their extinct cousins. Those tortoises graze down weeds and give native plants a better chance of recovery.

In Siberia, the Pleistocene Park project aims to re-create a rich steppe ecosystem by reintroducing bactrian camels, musk oxen and American plains bison. One benefit is this will increase the amount of carbon stored in that landscape.

In Australia, most of our animal reintroduction programs are focused on conserving individual species. In a few cases, like the Marna Banggara project, ecological engineers like bettongs are being introduced to kick-start ecosystem restoration, but this is happening behind fences and on islands.

We need solutions like rewilding for our open landscapes. Reintroducing emus to Tasmania would be a good first step.The Conversation

Tristan Derham, Research Associate, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) Policy Hub – Training and Education, University of TasmaniaChristopher Johnson, Professor of Wildlife Conservation, University of Tasmania, and Matthew Fielding, Research Associate / Teaching Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), University of Tasmania

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

Exploding carp numbers are ‘like a house of horrors’ for our rivers. Is it time to unleash carp herpes?

Ivor Stuart/The Conversation
Ivor StuartCharles Sturt UniversityJohn KoehnCharles Sturt UniversityKatie DoyleCharles Sturt University, and Lee BaumgartnerCharles Sturt University

With widespread La Niña flooding in the Murray-Darling Basin, common carp (Cyprinus carpio) populations are having a boom year. Videos of writhing masses of both adult and young fish illustrate that all is not well in our rivers. Carp now account for up to 90% of live fish mass in some rivers.

Concerned communities are wondering whether it is, at last, time for Australia to unleash the carp herpes virus to control populations – but the conversation among scientists, conservationists, communities and government bodies is only just beginning.

Globally, the carp virus has been detected in more than 30 countries but never in Australia. There are valid concerns to any future Australian release, including cleaning up dead carp, and potential significant reductions of water quality and native fish.

As river scientists and native fish lovers, let’s weigh the benefits of releasing the virus against the risks, set within a context of a greater vision of river recovery.

A House Of Horrors For Rivers

Carp are a pest in Australia. They cause dramatic ecological damage both here and in many countries. Carp were first introduced in the 1800s but it was only with “the Boolarra strain” that populations exploded in the basin in the early 1970s.

Assisted by flooding in the 1970s, carp have since invaded 92% of all rivers and wetlands in their present geographic range. There have been estimates of up to 357 million fish during flood conditions. This year, this estimate may even be exceeded.

Carp are super-abundant right now because floods give them access to floodplain habitats. There, each large female can spawn millions of eggs and young have high survival rates. While numbers will decline as the floods subside, the number of juveniles presently entering back into rivers will be stupendous and may last years.

The impacts of carp are like a house of horrors for our rivers. They cause massive degradation of aquatic plants, riverbanks and riverbeds when they feed. They alter the habitat critical for small native fish, such as southern pygmy perch. And they can make the bed of many rivers look like the surface of golf balls – denuded and dimpled, devoid of any habitat.

Dimpled riverbed
Adult carp usually search for food at the bottom of rivers, stirring up sediment and creating dimples on the riverbed. Ivor StuartAuthor provided

Most strikingly, this feeding behaviour contributes to turbid rivers, reducing sunlight penetration and productivity for native plants, fish and broader aquatic communities.

Carp truly are formidable “ecosystem engineers”, which means they directly modify their environment, much like rabbits. Their design leads to aquatic destruction of waterways.

We know when their “impact threshold” exceeds 88 kilograms per hectare of adult carp, we see declines in aquatic plant health, water quality, native fish numbers and other aquatic values. At present, we expect carp to far exceed this impact threshold. For river managers, the challenge is to keep numbers below that level.

Person holding a carp
Carp alter the habitat critical for small native fish. Ivor StuartAuthor provided

The Carp Herpes Virus

The carp virus (Cyprinid herpesvirus 3) represents one of the only landscape-scale carp control options, although there are some exciting genetic modification technologies also emerging.

Mathematical modelling suggests the carp virus could cause a 40-60% knockdown for at least ten years, which may help tip the balance in favour of native fish. Certainly, there have been some well documented virus outbreaks in the United States resulting in large-scale carp deaths.

The risks and benefits of a potential Australian release of a carp virus are transparently addressed under the federal government’s National Carp Control Plan, released last year. This plan provides some sorely needed leadership in the carp management space.

Piles of dead carp in clamshell pools
Carp account for up to 90% of live fish mass in some rivers. Katie DoyleAuthor provided

Risks the plan identifies include:

  • major logistic challenges in cleaning up dead carp
  • potentially serious short-term deterioration in water quality
  • potential native fish deaths due to poor water quality.

On the other hand, the benefits of releasing the virus include:

  • recovery of aquatic biodiversity populations – fish, plants and invertebrates
  • major long-term improvements to water quality
  • improved social amenity of inland waterways.

As carp continue to destroy Australia’s riverine heritage, it’s time to lay our cards on the table and have a serious conversation about the carp virus. Managing expectations is a key and the confidence of stakeholders and the community is vital for its success.

Like rabbits and other vertebrate pests, carp are emblematic of our inability to deal with entrenched pest animals. There are no silver bullets.

How Else Can We Manage Carp?

Rolling out the carp virus is only one potential pathway away from carp. If we truly want to reduce carp numbers and impacts in the long-term then we need to examine all the roles humans play supporting them.

For example, the series of weir pools in the lower Murray create perfect conditions for carp because they give fish access to floodplains year round.

Strategically lowering and removing weir pools to re-create flowing water habitats would be one solution to help Murray cod and other flowing water specialists, such as silver perch, river snails and Murray crays. This is one of many integrated actions that could help tip the balance against carp.

Also, floodplain structures (which create artificial “floods”) generate static, warm-bathtub conditions that carp, being from Central Asia, prefer, contributing to huge numbers especially in dry years. Few medium or large native fish benefit from these conditions.

Flock of pelicans on a river
Some native animals such as pelicans would be dining on carp in this population boom. Shutterstock

Another pathway is to seek guidance from increasingly sophisticated environmental modelling, which can identify optimal population trajectories for native fish over carp.

Now the floods have returned, we need to move away from local decisions at the site-scale and instead manage ecosystems across the entire Murray-Darling Basin.

The present flooding also reminds us of the huge potential increases in the numbers of golden perch, frogs, yabbies and water birds. Animals that eat carp (Murray cod, golden perch, pelicans, cormorants) should all be as fat as can be.

Looking Beyond Carp

Just like the huge numbers of dead native fish from the Darling River fish kills in 2018-2019, the huge numbers of carp is a big wake-up call on the poor state of rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin and how we’re managing them.

Perhaps what has been missing from the whole conversation is a vision for what our rivers should look like in ten or 20 years time. We don’t want to leave a legacy of degraded rivers for future Australians.

River health is an issue all Australian’s, country and city, need to engage with. If we don’t identify a common purpose, then we will likely continue to remain in lock-step with the great armies of carp and rivers of fish kills for generations to come. We need to do better than this. The future of our rivers depends on it.The Conversation

Ivor Stuart, Fisheries ecologist, Charles Sturt UniversityJohn Koehn, Freshwater fish ecologist, Charles Sturt UniversityKatie Doyle, Freshwater Ecologist, Charles Sturt University, and Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University

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

Don’t kill the curl grubs in your garden – they could be native beetle babies

Tanya LattyUniversity of Sydney and Chris ReidUNSW Sydney

Have you ever been in the garden and found a large, white, C-shaped grub with a distinctive brown head and six legs clustered near the head?

If so, you’ve had an encounter with the larva of a scarab beetle (family: Scarabaeidae) also known as a “curl grub”.

Many gardeners worry these large larvae might damage plants.

So what are curl grubs? And should you be concerned if you discover them in your garden?

What Are Curl Grubs?

Curl grubs turn into scarab beetles.

There are more than 30,000 species of scarab beetles worldwide. Australia is home to at least 2,300 of these species, including iridescent Christmas beetles (Anoplognathus), spectacularly horned rhinoceros beetles (Dynastinae), and the beautifully patterned flower chafers (Cetoniinae).

While the adults might be the most conspicuous life stage, scarabs spend most of their lives as larvae, living underground or in rotting wood.

A bird holds a curl grub in its beak.
Curl grubs make an excellent meal for hungry birds. Shutterstock

Scarab Larvae Can Help The Environment

Soil-dwelling scarab larvae can aerate soils and help disperse seeds.

Species that eat decaying matter help recycle nutrients and keep soils healthy.

Most scarab larvae are large and full of protein and fat. They make an excellent meal for hungry birds.

Besides being important for ecosystems, scarabs also play a role in cultural celebrations.

For example, the ancient Egyptians famously worshipped the sun through the symbol of the ball-rolling dung beetle.

In Australia, colourful Christmas beetles traditionally heralded the arrival of the holiday season.

Sadly, Christmas beetle numbers have declined over the last few decades, likely due to habitat loss.

Are The Curl Grubs In My Garden Harming My Plants?

Most scarab larvae feed on grass roots, and this can cause damage to plants when there’s a lot of them.

In Australia, the Argentine lawn scarab and the African black beetle are invasive pest species that cause significant damage to pastures and lawns.

Native scarab species can also be pests under the right circumstances.

For example, when Europeans began planting sugar cane (a type of grass) and converting native grasslands to pastures, many native Australian scarab species found an abundant new food source and were subsequently classified as pests.

Unfortunately, we know little about the feeding habits of many native scarab larvae, including those found in gardens.

Some common garden species, like the beautifully patterned fiddler beetle (Eupoecila australasiae), feed on decaying wood and are unlikely to harm garden plants.

Even species that consume roots are likely not a problem under normal conditions.

Plants are surprisingly resilient, and most can handle losing a small number of their roots to beetle larvae. Even while damaging plants, curl grubs may be helping keep soil healthy by providing aeration and nutrient mixing.

manicured grass and garden
Most plants can handle losing a small number of their roots to beetle larvae. Shutterstock

How Do I Know If I Have ‘Good’ Or ‘Bad’ Beetle Larvae In My Garden?

Unfortunately, identifying scarab larvae species is challenging. Many of the features we use to tell groups apart are difficult to see without magnification. While there are identification guides for scarabs larvae found in pastures, there are currently no such identification resources for the scarabs found in household gardens.

Since identification may not be possible, the best guide to whether or not scarab larvae are a problem in your garden is the health of your plants. Plants with damaged roots may wilt or turn yellow.

Since most root-feeding scarabs prefer grass roots, lawn turf is most at risk and damage is usually caused by exotic scarab species.

Unfortunately, identifying scarab larvae species is challenging. Shutterstock

What Should I Do If I Find Curl Grubs In My Garden?

Seeing suspiciously plump curl grubs amongst the roots of prized garden plants can be alarming, but please don’t automatically reach for insecticides.

The chemicals used to control curl grubs will harm all scarab larvae, regardless of whether or not they are pests.

Many of the most common treatments for curl grubs contain chemicals called “anthranilic diamides”, which are also toxic to butterflies, moths and aquatic invertebrates.

And by disrupting soil ecosystems, using insecticides might do more harm than good and could kill harmless native beetle larvae.

So what to do instead?

Larvae found in decaying wood or mulch are wood feeders and are useful composters; they will not harm your plants and should be left where they are.

Larvae found in compost bins are helping to break down wastes and should also be left alone.

If you find larvae in your garden soil, use your plant’s health as a guide. If your plants appear otherwise healthy, consider simply leaving curl grubs where they are. Scarab larvae are part of the soil ecosystem and are unlikely to do damage if they are not present in high numbers.

If your plants appear yellow or wilted and you’ve ruled out other causes, such as under-watering or nutrient deficiencies, consider feeding grubs to the birds or squishing them. It’s not nice, but it’s better than insecticides.

Lawns are particularly susceptible to attack by the larvae of non-native scarabs. Consider replacing lawns with native ground covers. This increases biodiversity and lowers the chances of damage from non-native scarab larvae.

Scarab beetles are beautiful and fascinating insects that help keep our soils healthy and our wildlife well fed.The Conversation

Tanya Latty, Associate professor, University of Sydney and Chris Reid, Adjunct Associate Professor in Zoology, UNSW Sydney

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

Photos from the field: our voyage investigating Australia’s submarine landslides and deep-marine canyons

Ali Jam Productions PhotographyAuthor provided
Hannah PowerUniversity of NewcastleKendall MollisonUniversity of NewcastleMichael KinselaUniversity of Newcastle, and Tom HubbleUniversity of Sydney

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.

We gathered at the edge of the ship deck, awaiting the return of our sediment corer that had been lowered 4.5 kilometres – half the height of Mount Everest – to the seafloor. Our team of 53 people nervously shuffled together like penguins as we speculated about what we’d find.

It was July 2022. We’d been at sea for 36 days on CSIRO’s Research Vessel Investigator to explore the edges of our continent and learn how it evolved through time. While we’re all familiar with the shape of modern Australia, our continental mass actually extends well beyond our shorelines.

Over the 36 days of our voyage, we mapped more than 40,000 square kilometres of the seafloor from as shallow as 22 metres to depths of over 4.8km. And we’ve created 3D visualisations of features never seen before.

The steel corer emerged from the deep glistening like pirate treasure. It marks just one of many samples we collected at sea. Analysing them all will probably take years, but we can still share exciting new maps of the seafloor and what they may reveal – from the threat of tsunami in Australia to evidence of ancient beaches and dunes.

A coloured image of the Australian continental land mass
An exaggerated 3D view of the Australian continental land mass and surrounding oceans. Beyond the shallow continental shelf seas (orange), the continental slope drops abruptly to the deep ocean floor (blue). Geoscience Australia/© Commonwealth of AustraliaCC BY

The Threat Of Tsunami

Our research voyage aimed to investigate how mud and sand flows from our continent into the deep oceans. Along the way, these different sediments can travel down submarine canyons and form large landslides.

Sometimes, these submarine landslides are large enough to trigger a tsunami – so we’re also working to understand what the local tsunami risk is for Australia’s eastern seaboard communities.

The front of a ship
The weather at sea isn’t always clear and calm. Early on in the trip we experienced winds of up to 50 knots. Mike KinselaAuthor provided
People on a ship in high-vis jackets watch a cable lower a scientific instrument into the sea
Two Argo floats will be part of an international program consisting of a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents to collect information from inside the ocean. Here you can see an Argo float being deployed at dawn while the night shift scientists watch on. Mike KinselaAuthor provided

A big part of understanding the potential threat of tsunami is learning how the material from the submarine landslides along the eastern seaboard has moved down into the deep ocean. For example, does it go as a single, large slab of sediment, failing all at once? Or does it slowly break apart, with smaller pieces heading down slope one at a time as a slurry of sediment and water?

While Australia has a relatively low tsunami risk compared to other places around the world, we are still exposed and so should heed warnings from emergency services.

A recent tsunami to hit Australia was caused by the underwater volcanic explosion in Tonga in January last year. This brought waves of more than 80 centimetres to the Gold Coast, which could knock you off your feet.

Mapping The Seafloor Surface

We mapped areas of the seafloor with a level of precision not available to previous generations of hydrographers and map-makers in Australia. Some areas were nearly 5km deep and over 100 nautical miles from the coast.

To do this, we use a multibeam system. This involves sending out sound waves from the bottom of the ship in a wide cone-shape. These sound waves bounce off the seafloor back to the ship, giving us information about the depth of the seafloor and allowing us to map any features on its surface.

One feature we remapped was an area of the continental slope offshore of Yamba, New South Wales. Here we see cliffs up to a few hundred metres high – evidence of slope failure and sliding.

A section of seafloor off the coast of Yamba, NSW. The images show the mapped area before and after the voyage, clearly showing newly mapped areas and the large submarine landslide in the middle of the new mapping. Red indicates shallower areas on the continental shelf and purple indicates deeper areas, including the edge of the abyssal plain. The image is looking west towards the Australian continent. Data from CSIRO Marine National Facility. Maps by Elise Buller, Author provided

We also remapped the scar from the Bulli submarine landslide, which is the biggest submarine landslide identified on the Australian continental margin to date. At over 25km long and over 10km wide, the Bulli landslide off Wollongong in NSW removed 40 cubic kilometres of sediment from the edge of our continent.

A green, orange and yellow map
Drowned coastal dunes on the continental shelf, 60-100m below present sea level. These dunes were formed above water when sea levels were lower and were preserved as the coastline migrated over them thousands of years later. In mapping these drowned dunes and similar features, we uncovered new evidence of ancient coastlines. Orange and red colours indicate shallower areas, while green colours indicate deeper areas. Data from CSIRO Marine National Facility. Map by Mike Kinsela

But to get a true feel for the multibeam system’s capabilities, we also mapped the wreck of the Limerick, a ship sunk by Japanese submarines off Australia’s east coast near Cape Byron in 1943. This also supported efforts to understand the current state of the famous shipwreck.

The wreck sits upside down in about 80m of water. To get a better view, we also lowered a camera to the torpedo hole in the side that sunk the ship.

An image of a wrecked ship on the seafloor
A downward looking image of the stern of the MV Limerick wreck collected using the towed drop camera. The MV Limerick sits upside down on the seafloor. CSIRO MNF
A sideways looking image of the stern of the MV Limerick wreck clearly showing the ships propellers. CSIRO MNF

Beneath The Seafloor

Understanding what’s on the surface of the seafloor tells us a lot about what has happened over the last few hundreds of thousands of years.

But looking below the surface at the sediment layers beneath can tell us how the seafloor has evolved over millions of years.

To do this, we use techniques that send out pulses of sound that can penetrate the seafloor. These pulses then listen for return signals that bounce off interfaces of different types of sediments and rocks.

Two men on a ship at night holding sediment
Samples being brought up from the seafloor is always a very exciting moment. Here, Chief Scientist A/ Prof Tom Hubble (right), inspects a freshly retrieved dredge sample late in the night at the end of his shift. Ali Jam Productions PhotographyAuthor provided

Through these sub-surface imaging techniques, we have identified a range of interesting features. These include extinct river channels that were previously above the sea surface when sea levels were much lower in the past.

But to really tie things down we need physical samples of the seafloor and the sediment beneath it. Doing this is a challenge when you’re floating kilometres above the seafloor you want to sample.

So we use deep sea sediment corers and dredges, lowered down on winches with kilometres of cable. Corers punch into the seafloor and bring us back a column of sediment, while dredges drag along the bottom pulling up bits of mud and rocks, bringing them on board in big chain baskets.

Three scientists peering into a sediment core
One of the goals of our voyage was to help train the next generation of marine geoscientists. Here, one of the 12 student volunteers, Ruby (left), discusses a freshly retrieved and opened core with principal scientists A/ Prof Hannah Power and Dr Mike Kinsela. Murray KendallAuthor provided

Once on board, these samples are carefully analysed to look for key features that will help us piece together the puzzle of the continental margin’s evolution. Further work, such as radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis, is conducted in the months to years after the voyage to complete the analysis.

We’ve collected some fascinating new data that will keep us busy for years to come, but we also had time for table tennis competitions, a few movie nights, and a daily debate on which of the many delicious meals onboard was the favourite.

And we can’t forget the many spectacular sunrises and sunsets!The Conversation

Person watching the sunset from a ship
Sunrises at sea are unforgettable. Hannah PowerAuthor provided

Hannah Power, Associate Professor in Coastal and Marine Science, University of NewcastleKendall Mollison, Postdoctoral researcher, University of NewcastleMichael Kinsela, Lecturer in Coastal and Ocean Geoscience, University of Newcastle, and Tom Hubble, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

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
A Walk Around The Cromer Side Of Narrabeen Lake by Joe Mills
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 -

RACGP Cautions Medicare Reforms Must Support GP Stewardship Of Patient Care

January 23, 2023
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is warning that any Medicare reforms must support GP stewardship of patient care, which is proven to improve patient health and wellbeing.

It comes following reports that the Albanese Government is devising a plan to open delivery of primary care to other health professionals, with a new funding model that funds nurses and allied health professionals working in teams delivering complex care.

The largest representative body for GPs, the RACGP has today announced a revised plan for governments to address the current health crisis, with action now to stem the bleeding and long-term reform that ensures the future of GP care for all Australians.

This includes:
  • improving access to care by tripling bulk billing incentives, increasing Medicare rebates for longer, complex consultations by 20%, funding enhanced primary care services for people over 65, with mental health conditions and disability, and funding patients to see their GP after an unplanned hospital visit.
  • boosting the GP workforce by fast-tracking entry for international doctors, re-instating the subsidy for their training, supporting junior doctors to intern in general practice, and introducing payroll tax exemption for independent tenant GPs to prevent more practices closing.
  • Long-term reforms based on the RACGP Vision to build the role of GPs as the stewards of patient care in multidisciplinary teams, with serious investment to improve the health of Australians and reduce spending on expensive hospital care.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said GP stewardship of patient care in the community needs to be central to any long-term reforms.

“While it’s great that our nation’s leaders recognise the need for reform, I am concerned the government’s proposed new model to overhaul Medicare will not go far enough to improve the situation for patients and may make matters worse.

“The problem is decades of neglect and underfunding has made is harder and more expensive to see a GP, and this has caused the crisis in our hospital system, with wait times blowing out and ambulances ramping.

“We need short-term action now to stem the bleeding and improve access to care, particularly for those most in need.

“Australia also needs long-term reforms that build the role of GPs as the stewards of patient care in multidisciplinary teams, because one person needs to be responsible for managing a patient’s care and GPs are best placed to do this.

“We have seen other counties such as the United Kingdom try to address GP shortages by broadening delivery of primary care to other health professionals - this approach failed to meaningfully improve patient health and wellbeing. Instead, it further fragmented the health system, which leads to worse health outcomes, inefficiencies and wastage.

“GPs are best placed to manage patient care because we have the required training and expertise in generalist care and diagnostics. The evidence shows seeing the same GP over time, also known as ‘continuity of care’, leads to fewer hospital visits, lower mortality, and reduced costs to the health budget. 

“So, we need GPs working hand in glove with allied health professionals, pharmacists, and practice nurses, and they should be supported within general practice, with GPs working as the stewards of patient care.  

“We need to get any long-term reform right, band-aid solutions won’t work. That means serious investment in general practice care and building the role of GPs as the stewards of patient care in multidisciplinary teams. All the evidence shows that this will improve the health of Australians and reduce spending on expensive hospital care, it just makes sense.”

The RACGP President urged governments to act now to stem the bleeding.

“Long-term reforms will take time, but we have a health crisis on our hands that demands immediate action,” she said.

“Funding has been stripped from general practice care by successive governments over decades, while the need for care has been skyrocketing due to Australia’s ageing population, rising chronic conditions, and mental health concerns. 

“As a result, we are seeing GP clinics forced to close, people are struggling to access a GP, hospitals are overstretched, and this is leading to worsening health outcomes for all.

“There are simple measures government can implement quickly to improve access to care, particularly for those most in need, including tripling bulk billing incentives, and increasing Medicare rebates for longer consultations for complex care by 20%.

“We are also calling on governments to act now to boost the GP workforce by fast-tracking entry for international doctors to work in rural communities and re-instating the subsidy for their training to be a specialist GP in Australia.

“And we need state and territory governments to introduce payroll tax exemption for all independent tenant GPs who rent rooms from clinics – because if practices are slugged with exorbitant new tax obligations, they will be forced to pass costs on to patients, and some will be forced to close.

“There is no substitute for GP care, that path results in worse health outcomes for patients, and longer wait times at already overstretched hospitals.

“Our nation’s leaders need to recognise this, and make the changes needed to ensure that all Australians can access high-quality GP care, regardless of their postcode and income. Anything less is not enough.”

ACCC Social Media Sweep Targets Influencers

January 27, 2023

The ACCC has this week started a sweep to identify misleading testimonials and endorsements by social media influencers. It will also look at more than 100 influencers mentioned in over 150 tip-offs from consumers who responded to the ACCC’s Facebook post asking for information.

Most of the tip-offs from members of the public were about influencers in beauty and lifestyle, as well as parenting and fashion, failing to disclose their affiliation with the product or company they are promoting.

“The number of tip-offs reflects the community concern about the ever-increasing number of manipulative marketing techniques on social media, designed to exploit or pressure consumers into purchasing goods or services,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We want to thank the community for letting us know which influencers they believe might not be doing the right thing,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Already, we are hearing some law firms and industry bodies have informed their clients about the ACCC’s sweep, and reminded them of their advertising disclosure requirements,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

The sweep is being run over the coming weeks as part of the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for 2022/23, with the broad aim of identifying deceptive marketing practices across the digital economy.

As part of the sweep, the ACCC team is reviewing a range of social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook, and livestreaming service, Twitch. The sweep is targeting sectors where influencer marketing is particularly widespread including fashion, beauty and cosmetics, food and beverage, travel, health fitness and wellbeing, parenting, gaming and technology.

In conducting the sweep, the ACCC is also considering the role of other parties such as advertisers, marketers, brands and social media platforms in facilitating misconduct.

“With more Australians choosing to shop online, consumers often rely on reviews and testimonials when making purchases, but misleading endorsements can be very harmful,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“It is important social media influencers are clear if there are any commercial motivations behind their posts. This includes those posts that are incentivised and presented as impartial but are not. The ACCC will not hesitate to take action where we see consumers are at risk of being misled or deceived by a testimonial, and there is potential for significant harm.

This action may include following up misconduct with compliance, education and potential enforcement activities as appropriate.”

Many consumers are aware that influencers receive a financial benefit for promoting products and services. However, the ACCC remains concerned that influencers, advertisers and brands try to hide this fact from consumers, which prevents them from making informed choices. This can particularly apply to micro influencers with smaller followings, as they can build and maintain a more seemingly authentic relationship with followers to add legitimacy to hidden advertising posts. The ACCC is therefore monitoring a mix of small and larger influencers in the sweep.

This sweep follows a similar initiative carried out in 2022, which focused on identifying misleading online reviews and testimonials posted on business’ websites, their social media pages and third-party review platforms. A report outlining the findings from 2022 will be published in the coming months.

“Online markets need to function well to support the modern economy. Part of that is ensuring consumers have the confidence they need to make more informed purchasing decisions,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

The ACCC will publish the findings of this sweep once the results have been analysed.


Each year, the ACCC announces a list of Compliance and Enforcement priorities. These priorities outline the areas of focus for the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement activities for the following year. As part of the 2022/23 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities, the ACCC is prioritising both consumer and fair-trading issues in relation to issues relating to manipulative or deceptive advertising and marketing practices in the digital economy.

The ACCC is also conducting the Digital Platform Services Inquiry that is focused on the provision of social media services, including sponsored posts and influencer advertising on social media platforms. We will provide the sixth interim report on social media services to the Treasurer by 31 March 2023.

There are also industry led practices and guidelines which provide a standard for Australian influencer businesses and advertisers. For example, the Australian Association of National Advertisers provides guidance on what can be considered clearly distinguishable advertising. The Australian Influencer Marketing Code of Practice also outlines best practice for companies engaging in influencer marketing, including in disclosing advertisements.

Other regulators such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority are also responsible for regulating influencer conduct in their areas of jurisdiction. The ACCC engages with these regulators to determine which is best placed to take action in relation to any misleading or deceptive conduct.   

Free Menstrual Hygiene Products For All NSW Students

January 25, 2023

NSW public school students will have access to free menstrual hygiene products from the start of the school year.

More than 4600 dispensers have been installed in public schools across the state to support young women overcome barriers in accessing menstrual hygiene products.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell celebrated the rollout of this program for the start of the 2023 school year.

“Getting your period should not be a barrier to education. We have installed 4600 sanitary product dispensers in NSW schools to ensure students can participate in all aspects of school life,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I want our young women to feel comfortable in knowing they have access to free sanitary products when they need, in their school.

“Evidence shows that providing sanitary items has a very positive impact on educational engagement and attainment, so we know this program is going to make a huge difference for our students’ education.”

The NSW Government is also supporting delivery of the Periods, Pain and Endometriosis Program (PPEP-Talk), developed by the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia (PPFA) and co-funded by the Australian Government.

The PPEP-Talk, an age-appropriate program to help students, parents and schools understand endometriosis and pelvic pain and early intervention strategies, will be delivered at select public schools in NSW.

“These PPEP-Talks will allow for both male and female students to be able to discuss women’s health in a respectful way that reduces the stigma that can come around women's health,” Ms Mitchell said.

Northern Composure Band Competition 2023

Due to the pandemic, Council have had the 20th anniversary on hold but pleased to say that the competition is open and running again.

Northern Composure is the largest and longest-running youth band competition in the area and offers musicians local exposure as well as invaluable stage experience. Bands compete in heats, semi finals and the grand final for a total prize pool of over $15,000. 

Over the past 20 years we have had many success stories and now is your chance to join bands such as: 

  • Ocean Alley
  • Lime Cordiale
  • Dear Seattle
  • What So Not
  • The Rions
  • Winston Surfshirt
  • Crocodylus

And even a Triple J announcer plus a wide range of industry professionals

About the Competition

In 2023, the comp looks a little different.

All bands are invited to enter our heats which will be exclusively run online and voted on by your peers and community by registering below and uploading a video of one song of your choice. (if you are doing a cover, please make sure to credit the original band) We are counting on you to spread the word and get your friends, family, teachers voting for you!

The top 8-12 bands will move on through to our live semi finals with a winner from each moving on to the grand final held during National Youth Week. Not only that but we have raised the age range from 19 to 21 for all those musicians who may have missed out over the past two years.


Key dates

  • Voting open for heats: Mon 13 Feb – Sun 26 Feb
  • Band Briefing: Mon 6 March, Dee Why PCYC
  • Semi 1: Sat 18 March Mona Vale Memorial Hall
  • Semi 2: Sat 25 March, YOYOs, Frenchs Forest
  • Grand Final: Fri 28 April, Dee Why PCYC

For more information contact Youth Development at or call 8495 5104

Stay in the loop and follow Northern Composure Unplugged on KALOF Facebook.

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:

Word Of The Week: School

Word of the Week returns in 2023 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


1. an organisation that provides instruction: such as an institution for the teaching of children, acollege or university, a group of scholars and teachers pursuing knowledge together that with similar groups constituted a medieval university. 2. the process of teaching or learning especially at a school. 3.  source of knowledge. 4. a group of persons who hold a common doctrine or follow the same teacher (as in philosophy, theology, or medicine). 5. the regulations governing military drill of individuals or units.

The word school derives from Greek scholē, originally meaning "leisure" and also "that in which leisure is employed", but later "a group to whom lectures were given, school". Middle English scole, from Old English scōl, from Latin schola, from Greek scholē leisure, discussion, lecture, school. 

Plato's academy, mosaic from Pompeii

Molly Meldrum at 80: how the ‘artfully incoherent’ presenter changed Australian music – and Australian music journalism

Liz GiuffreUniversity of Technology Sydney

Ian Alexander “Molly” Meldrum is 80 on January 29 2023.

The Australian music industry would not be where it is today without his work as a talent scout, DJ, record producer, journalist, broadcaster and professional fan.

His legacy has been acknowledged by the ARIAs, APRA, the Logies, an Order of Australia and even a mini-series.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Meldrum made headlines again for an appearance at Elton John’s farewell concert in Melbourne when he “mooned” the crowd in a playful display of rock and roll rebellion. He later apologised to the audience and old friend Elton, keen to make sure no one else was blamed.

It was an irreverence typical of Meldrum’s long career. But his legacy is not just in the musical acts he supported. It is also in the taste makers who followed in his footsteps.

‘Artfully Incoherent’

A journalist at pioneering music magazine Go-Set, a presenter and record producer, Meldrum became a household name with the ABC TV music show Countdown (1974-87). Countdown was a weekly touchstone for the industry and fans, promoting local acts alongside the best in the world.

Meldrum’s approach to interviewing and commentary is legendary. ABC historian Ken Inglis called his interviewing style “artfully incoherent”.

Importantly, his charm put artists and fans at ease.

Meldrum is not a slick player, but a fan. This fandom is felt so deeply that, at times, he became overwhelmed.

One of Meldrum’s most famous interviews was in 1977 when the then Prince Of Wales appeared on Countdown to launch a charity record and event. The presenter became increasingly flustered.

Even now, watching back, it’s hard not to side with Meldrum rather than his famous guest. Pomp, ceremony and hierarchy really didn’t make sense in this rock and pop oasis.

In another interview, Meldrum spoke to David Bowie on a tennis court. Both men casually talked and smoked (it was the ‘70s!), talking seriously about the work but not much else.

As Meldrum handed Bowie a tennis racket to demonstrate how the iconic track, Fame (with John Lennon) was born, the Starman was given space to be hilariously human.

When meeting a sedate Stevie Nicks, Meldrum met her on her level.

Nicks told Meldrum she was only happy “sometimes”, and rather than probing, he just listened. When Meldrum asked about the dog Nicks had in her lap, she opened up:

I got her way before I had any money, I didn’t have near enough money to buy her […] She’s one of the things I’ve had to give up for Fleetwood Mac, because you’re not home.

Meldrum approached this, and all his guests, with humanity. This is how his insights into the reality of rock royalty are effortlessly uncovered.

New Taste Makers

A country boy who came to the city, Meldrum studied music and the growing local industry much more attentively than his law degree. He passionately supported (and continues to support) Australian popular music – and Australian music fans.

He speaks a love language for music that musicians and fans share, and a language which has continued in other presenters.

Following in Meldrum’s footsteps we have seen distinct critical voices like Myf Warhurst, Julia Zemiro and Zan Rowe.

Each of these women have approached the music industry with charm like Meldrum, but also their own perspectives: Zemiro with a love of international influence; Warhurst with pop as a language to connect us to the everyday; Rowe with a way to connect audiences and musicians through conversations about their own processes and passions.

Our best music critics, and musicians, have embraced an unapologetic energy Meldrum made acceptable.

Meldrum is also a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community, weathering the storms of prejudice during his early career. Today, members of the media and musical community have greater protection from the prejudice common when his career began.

The Music, Of Course, The Music

The Australian music industry would not be what it is had Molly Meldrum gone on to be a lawyer.

Through the pages of Go-Set and on Countdown he worked to promote new talent, believing in and developing acts like AC/DC, Split Enz, Paul Kelly, Do Re Mi, Australian Crawl and Kylie Minogue before the rest of the industry knew what to do with them.

He did the same for international artists. ABBA, Elton John, KISS, Madonna and many other now mega-names were first presented to Australian audiences via Meldrum’s wonderful ear.

Today, Australian music encompasses pop, dance, electro and hip hop, and artists from all walks of life. Meldrum’s willingness to listen has contributed to this, and he encouraged others to do the same.

Meldrum remains revered not just for nostalgia but as an example of what putting energy into the local scene can achieve.

Most importantly, Meldrum continues to be a music fan. He loves the mainstream, the place where the majority of the audience also resides. He has never bought into the idea of a “guilty” pleasure – if it works, it works, no music snobbery here.

His catch-cry – “do yourself a favour” – really does sum up the importance of music. It is not a luxury, but something to really keep us going. The Conversation

Liz Giuffre, Senior Lecturer in Communication, University of Technology Sydney

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

Let’s dance! How dance classes can lift your mood and help boost your social life

Tamara BorovicaRMIT University and Renata KokanovicRMIT University

If your new year’s resolutions include getting healthier, exercising more and lifting your mood, dance might be for you.

By dance, we don’t mean watching other people dance on TikTok, as much fun as this can be. We mean taking a dance class, or even better, a few.

A growing body of research shows the benefits of dance, regardless of the type (for example, classes or social dancing) or the style (hip hop, ballroom, ballet). Dance boosts our wellbeing as it improves our emotional and physical health, makes us feel less stressed and more socially connected.

Here’s what to consider if you think dance might be for you.

The Benefits Of Dance

Dance is an engaging and fun way of exercising, learning and meeting people. A review of the evidence shows taking part in dance classes or dancing socially improves your health and wellbeing regardless of your age, gender or fitness.

Another review focuses more specifically on benefits of dance across the lifespan. It shows dance classes and dancing socially at any age improves participants’ sense of self, confidence and creativity.

Older woman in group dance class
It’s never too late to start a dance class. Wellness Gallery Catalyst Foundation/Pexels

Researchers have also looked at specific dance programs.

One UK-based dance program for young people aged 14 shows one class a week for three months increased students’ fitness level and self-esteem. This was due to a combination of factors including physical exercise, a stimulating learning environment, positive engagement with peers, and creativity.

Another community-based program for adults in hospital shows weekly dance sessions led to positive feelings, enriches social engagement and reduced stress related to being in hospital.

If you want to know how much dance is needed to develop some of these positive effects, we have good news for you.

A useful hint comes from a study that looked exactly at how much creative or arts engagement is needed for good mental health – 100 or more hours a year, or two or more hours a week, in most cases.

Dance Is Social

But dance is more than physical activity. It is also a community ritual. Humans have always danced. We still do so to mark and celebrate transitory periods in life. Think of how weddings prompt non-dancers to move rhythmically to music. Some cultures dance to celebrate childbirth. Many dance to celebrate religious and cultural holidays.

This is what inspired French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to explore how dance affects societies and cultures.

Durkheim described how dancing with others cultivated ‘collective effervescence’ – dynamism, vitality and community. (Aeon Video)

Durkheim saw collective dance as a societal glue – a social practice that cultivates what he called “collective effervescence”, a feeling of dynamism, vitality and community.

He observed how dance held cultures together by creating communal feelings that were difficult to cultivate otherwise, for example a feeling of uplifting togetherness or powerful unity.

It’s that uplifting feeling you might experience when dancing at a concert and even for a brief moment forgetting yourself while moving in synchrony with the rest of the crowd.

People dancing with arms in air at club
That uplifting feeling: when dancing together helps you forget yourself as you move in synchrony with the rest of the crowd. Shutterstock

Synchronous collective activities, such as dance, provide a pleasurable way to foster social bonding. This is due to feelings Durkheim noticed that we now know as transcendental emotions – such as joy, awe and temporary dissolution of a sense of self (“losing yourself”). These can lead to feeling a part of something bigger than ourselves and help us experience social connectedness.

For those of us still experiencing social anxiety or feelings of loneliness due to the COVID pandemic, dance can be a way of (re)building social connections and belonging.

Whether you join an online dance program and invite a few friends, go to an in-person dance class, or go to a concert or dance club, dance can give temporary respite from the everyday and help lift your mood.

Keen To Try Out Dance?

Here’s what to consider:

  • if you have not exercised for a while, start with a program tailored to beginners or the specific fitness level that suits you

  • if you have physical injuries, check in with your GP first

  • if public dance classes are unappealing, consider joining an online dance program, or going to a dance-friendly venue or concert

  • to make the most of social aspect of dance, invite your friends and family to join you

  • social dance classes are a better choice for meeting new people

  • beginner performance dance classes will improve your physical health, dance skills and self-esteem

  • most importantly, remember, it is not so much about how good your dancing is, dance is more about joy, fun and social connectedness.

In the words of one participant in our (yet-to-be published) research on dance and wellbeing, dance for adults is a rare gateway into fun:

There’s so much joy, there’s so much play in dancing. And play isn’t always that easy to access as an adult; and yet, it’s just such a joyful experience. I feel so happy to be able to dance.The Conversation

Tamara Borovica, Research assistant and early career researcher, Critical Mental Health research group, RMIT University and Renata Kokanovic, Professor and Lead of Critical Mental Health, Social and Global Studies Centre, RMIT University

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

Asteroid 2023 BU just passed a few thousand kilometres from Earth. Here’s why that’s exciting

Asteroid 20223 BU’s path in red, with green showing the orbit of geosynchronous satellites. NASA/JPL-Caltech
Steven TingayCurtin University

There are hundreds of millions of asteroids in our Solar System, which means new asteroids are discovered quite frequently. It also means close encounters between asteroids and Earth are fairly common.

Some of these close encounters end up with the asteroid impacting Earth, occasionally with severe consequences.

A recently discovered asteroid, named 2023 BU, has made the news because today it passed very close to Earth. Discovered on Saturday January 21 by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov in Crimea, 2023 BU passed only about 3,600km from the surface of Earth (near the southern tip of South America) six days later on January 27.

Two dots, one blue and one magenta, drawing concentric and somewhat overlapping circles around a yellow dot
Data from NASA’s Horizons system show asteroid 2023 BU’s (magenta) orbit around the Sun (yellow), with Earth’s orbit seen in blue. Phoenix7777/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

That distance is just slightly farther than the distance between Perth and Sydney, and is only about 1% the distance between Earth and our Moon.

The asteroid also passed through the region of space that contains a significant proportion of the human-made satellites orbiting Earth.

All this makes 2023 BU the fourth-closest known asteroid encounter with Earth, ignoring those that have actually impacted the planet or our atmosphere.

How Does 2023 BU Rate As An Asteroid And A Threat?

2023 BU is unremarkable, other than that it passed so close to Earth. The diameter of the asteroid is estimated to be just 4–8 metres, which is on the small end of the range of asteroid sizes.

There are likely hundreds of millions of such objects in our Solar System, and it is possible 2023 BU has come close to Earth many times before over the millennia. Until now, we have been oblivious to the fact.

In context, on average a 4-metre-diameter asteroid will impact Earth every year and an 8-metre-diameter asteroid every five years or so (see the infographic below).

A diagram showing various asteroid sizes and their likelihood of impact
Statistically, larger asteroids have less of a chance impacting Earth than smaller ones do, because there are far fewer of them. NASA

Asteroids of this size pose little risk to life on Earth when they hit, because they largely break up in the atmosphere. They produce spectacular fireballs, and some of the asteroid may make it to the ground as meteorites.

Now that 2023 BU has been discovered, its orbit around the Sun can be estimated and future visits to Earth predicted. It is estimated there is a 1 in 10,000 chance 2023 BU will impact Earth sometime between 2077 and 2123.

So, we have little to fear from 2023 BU or any of the many millions of similar objects in the Solar System.

Asteroids need to be greater than 25 metres in diameter to pose any significant risk to life in a collision with Earth; to challenge the existence of civilisation, they’d need to be at least a kilometre in diameter.

It is estimated there are fewer than 1,000 such asteroids in the Solar System, and could impact Earth every 500,000 years. We know about more than 95% of these objects.

Will There Be More Close Asteroid Passes?

2023 BU was the fourth closest pass by an asteroid ever recorded. The three closer passes were by very small asteroids discovered in 2020 and 2021 (2021 UA2020 QG and 2020 VT).

Asteroid 2023 BU and countless other asteroids have passed very close to Earth during the nearly five billion years of the Solar System’s existence, and this situation will continue into the future.

What has changed in recent years is our ability to detect asteroids of this size, such that any threats can be characterised. That an object roughly five metres in size can be detected many thousands of kilometres away by a very dedicated amateur astronomer shows that the technology for making significant astronomical discoveries is within reach of the general public. This is very exciting.

Amateurs and professionals can together continue to discover and categorise objects, so threat analyses can be done. Another very exciting recent development came last year, by the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which successfully collided a spacecraft into an asteroid and changed its direction.

DART makes plausible the concept of redirecting an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth, if a threat analysis identifies a serious risk with enough warning.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.

Is ‘Toadzilla’ a sign of enormous cane toads to come? It’s possible – toads grow as large as their environment allows

Lin SchwarzkopfJames Cook University

Last week, the world met “Toadzilla”, a cane toad the size of a football and six times larger than average. The rangers who found her – female toads are bigger than male – were stunned. Weighing in at 2.7 kilograms, Toadzilla may be the largest cane toad ever recorded.

Is this a sign Australia’s cane toads are getting bigger? Not necessarily. Like all other “cold-blooded” or ectothermic animals, cane toads don’t have a limit to their body size like mammals and birds do. They can keep growing their entire lives. Researchers have found toads at the front of the invasion wave get bigger quicker due to more prey.

But there’s another possibility too. Last year, we found toads in urban areas have smaller parotid (toxin) glands than those in rural areas. That might be because bush toads experience higher predation, selecting for more toxins. In nature, an easy way to select for larger toxin glands is to make the whole animal bigger.

Given many native animals, reptiles and birds have now figured out how to eat these toads, we may possibly see more Toadzilla contenders in future.

giant cane toad
The giant cane toad was discovered by ranger Kylee Gray at Cape Conway National Park in Queensland and promptly euthanised. Queensland Department of Environment and ScienceCC BY

Wait, Cane Toads Have Predators In Australia?

When you think of cane toads in Australia, you might think of an unstoppable army hopping across the countryside, killing endangered animals, such as quolls, with their poison. There’s some truth to this – a large cane toad would appear to be a delectable package of protein for everything from freshwater crocodiles to goannas to birds of prey.

To survive, they have evolved large poison glands on their shoulders. When attacked, toads can pump out lethal bufotoxin. Worse, the eggs, tadpoles and toadlets are all poisonous as well.

In the South American savannas where they evolved, cane toads have many predators, which can consume them in spite of the poison.

While Australia has no native toads, we have frogs with poisonous skins and glands, for example red-crowned toadlets and corroboree frogs, so the concept of a toxic amphibian is not entirely new to our fauna.

Not only that, but many of our birds’ ancestors may have originated in Asia, where they were exposed to other poisonous amphibians. Our native rats, too, have some tolerance of these toxins from their more recent overseas ancestry. And colubrid snakes such as keelbacks can also eat cane toads.

Australia’s answer to the otter, the rakali, has been clever enough to figure out how to eat cane toads without getting poisoned. Shutterstock

Some species susceptible to the toxin have figured out ways to defeat it. Our famous “bin chickens” – the white ibis – have figured out how to eat cane toads, by flicking them about to make them produce their toxin and then washing them at a nearby creek. Rakali – the large water rat known as Australia’s otter – learned how to eat cane toads. They flip them over and eat their organs, avoiding the glands.
Overall, though, cane toads are bad news for many native species. Even with predator pressure, their populations keep growing and they keep moving into new areas.

How Do Water-Loving Toads Thrive In Dry Australia?

The difference between a toad and a frog isn’t whether they can live out of water. Australia has dozens of native treefrog species which have far better ways of holding onto their water than do cane toads. Desert tree frogs, for instance, can live in semi-arid regions, while burrowing frogs can live in true deserts. (The real difference is more obscure – toads have sternums in two cartilaginous parts instead of one, possibly an adaptation to walking or jumping).

So how did they become one of Australia’s most notorious introduced species? One answer: they were introduced purposely and vigorously, with thousands of toads bred up and introduced in many locations.

The plan was for the toads to eat native cane beetles plaguing Queensland’s sugarcane plantations. Before the 1935 introduction, the fantastically named entomologist Walter Froggatt pleaded with authorities not to release them. “This great toad, immune from enemies, omnivorous in its habits, and breeding all year round, may become as great a pest as the rabbit or cactus,” he wrote.

But farmers won, the toads arrived, the beetles proved too hard to catch and the toads began eating everything else. Soon, they began to spread. Each female can lay 20,000 eggs a year. (Cane beetles were brought under control only a few years later, when an effective pesticide was discovered).

cane toad mud
Cane toads are remarkably good at finding water sources in inhospitable regions. Shutterstock

Another reason these toads now number in the hundreds of millions is their sheer adaptability. They are incredibly good at finding hidden sources of water, even in semi-arid parts of the country. During the dry season, toads tend to stay very close to water. When the wet season comes and soaks the ground, they begin to move.

You might have come across research suggesting toads at the front of the invading wave are evolving longer legs. This isn’t natural selection – it’s spatial selection, where longer-legged toads naturally get to the front and breed with other longer-legged toads.

But we are seeing signs cane toads may be adapting to local conditions by getting better at retaining water. And, remarkably, they’ve become cannibals.

Are Cane Toads Unstoppable?

They’re formidable opponents, but cane toads have limits.

These toads eat everything they can catch – even if it has a sting or bite. They eat giant centipedes up to 16cm long. Beekeepers hate them because they’ll sit in front of hives and eat bee after bee.

Despite their poison glands, fecundity and adaptability, there’s one thing they can’t beat. Most amphibians can’t live in very arid conditions. That means toads will probably never infiltrate central Australia’s deserts.

Modelling has shown they’re unlikely to get past the arid middle coastline of Western Australia, and we think they’ll never make it to Melbourne because it’s too cold. Researchers have suggested protecting southern Western Australia from toads by converting cattle dams to tanks.

But Sydney will have to get used to cane toads before too long. They’ve already arrived several times, carried in on garden waste or in a pair of boots and establishing little populations before being eradicated. They have made it very clear they’re here to stay in Australia. Reducing numbers or protecting vulnerable areas is the best protection we’ve got.The Conversation

Lin Schwarzkopf, Professor in Zoology, James Cook University

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

Beavers and oysters are helping restore lost ecosystems with their engineering skills – podcast

Beavers dramatically change a landscape by building dams that create ponds of still water. Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA
Daniel MerinoThe Conversation and Nehal El-HadiThe Conversation

Whether you are looking at tropical forests in Brazilgrasslands in California or coral reefs in Australia, it is hard to find places where humanity hasn’t left a mark. The scale of the alteration, invasion or destruction of natural ecosystems can be mindbogglingly huge.

Thankfully, researchers, governments and everyday people around the world are putting more effort and money into conservation and restoration every year. But the task is large. How do you plant a billion trees? How do you restore thousands of square miles of wetlands? How do you turn a barren ocean floor back into a thriving reef? In some cases, the answer lies with certain plants or animals – called ecosystem engineers – that can kick-start the healing.

In this episode of “The Conversation Weekly,” we talk to three experts about how ecosystem engineers can play a key role in restoring natural places and why the human and social sides of restoration are just as important as the science.

Ecosystem engineers are plants or animals that create, modify or maintain habitats. As Joshua Larsen, an associate professor at the University of Birmingham, explains, beavers are a perfect example of an ecosystem engineer because of the dams and ponds they build.

A strip of green surrounding ponds in a burned landscape.
Beaver ponds can create valuable wetland habitats that store water and support life. Schmiebel/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

“They create this pocket of still water, which allows aquatic vegetation to start to colonize that wouldn’t otherwise be there,” says Larsen. Once a beaver establishes a pond, the surrounding area begins to change from a creek or river into a wetland.

Larsen is part of an effort to reintroduce beavers into Britain, a place where they have been extinct for over 500 years and the landscape reflects that loss. There used to be hundreds of thousands of beavers – and hundreds of thousands of beaver ponds – all across Britain. Without beavers, it would be prohibitively difficult to restore wetlands at that scale. But, as Larsen explains, “Beavers are doing this engineering of the landscape for free. And more importantly, they’re doing the maintenance for free.”

This idea of using ecosystem engineers to do the labor-intensive work of restoration for free is not limited to beavers. Dominic McAfee is a researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He studies oysters and is leading a project to restore oyster reefs on the eastern and southern coasts of Australia.

A large group of thousands of oysters emerging from water.
Oyster reefs provide important structure that supports entire ecosystems. Jstuby/Wikimedia Commons

“These reefs were the primary sort of marine habitat in coasts, coastal bays and estuaries over about 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) of Australian coastline,” says McAfee. But today, “They’re all gone. All those reefs were scraped from the seafloor over the last 200 years.”

When you lose the oysters, you lose the entire reef ecosystem they support. So, a few years ago, McAfee and his colleagues decided to start bringing these reefs back. Oysters need a hard surface – like a rock, or historically, other oysters – to grow on. But all those old oyster reefs are gone and only sand remains. “So the first step to restore oysters is to provide those hard foundations. We’ve been doing that in South Australia by deploying limestone boulders,” explains McAfee. After just a year, McAfee and his colleagues are starting to see results, with millions of oyster larva sticking to these boulders.

At this point, McAfee says that challenges are less about the science and more about getting community and political support. And that is where Andrew Kliskey comes in. Kliskey is a professor of community and landscape resilience at the University of Idaho in the U.S. He approaches restoration and conservation projects by looking at what are called social-ecological systems. As Kliskey explains, “That means looking at environmental issues not just from a single disciplinary point of view, but thinking that many things are often occurring in a town and in a community. Really, social-ecological systems means thinking about people and the landscape as being intertwined and how one interacts with the other.”

For scientists, this type of approach involves sociology, economics, indigenous knowledge and listening to communities that they are working with. Kliskey explains that it’s not always easy: “Doing this sort transdisciplinary work means being prepared to be uncomfortable. Maybe you’re trained as a hydrologist and you have to work with an economist. Or you work in a university and you want to work with people in a community with very real issues, that speak a different language and who have very different cultural norms. That can be uncomfortable.”

Having done this work for years, Kliskey has found that building trust is critical to any project and that the communities have a lot to teach researchers. “If you’re a scientist, it doesn’t matter which community you work with, you have to be prepared to listen.”

This episode was produced by Katie Flood and Daniel Merino, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. It was written by Katie Flood and Daniel Merino. Mend Mariwany is the show’s executive producer. 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.

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

Daniel Merino, Associate Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation and Nehal El-Hadi, Science + Technology 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.

Are your cats fighting or playing? Scientists analysed cat videos to figure out the difference

Susan HazelUniversity of Adelaide and Julia HenningUniversity of Adelaide

Have you ever worried if the play between your cats was getting too rough? A new study published in Scientific Reports has investigated play and fighting in cats.

Their aim was to use simple behaviours anyone could observe to work out what was play and what might lead to fights. This is important because the consequences of fights include injuries to animals and humans. At worst, you may even have to rehome one of your cats if they’re not getting along.

Categorising Cat ‘Fights’

The study, led by Noema Gajdoš-Kmecová from University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Slovakia and from the University of Lincoln, UK, analysed 105 videos of interactions between 210 cats.

The research team then developed an ethogram – a list of specific behaviours used in the study of animal behaviour. These were put into six groups:

  1. Inactive: head and body motionless and in specific position, for example crouching
  2. Wrestling: cats in physical contact with wrestling movements
  3. Chasing: one cat runs in pursuit or another cat runs away
  4. Other interactive activities: for example grooming, approaching, raised fur on back
  5. Non-interactive: activity directed towards themselves or an inanimate object, for example drinking, self-licking
  6. Vocalisation: for example growl, hiss, meow
The researchers used terms such as “cats play fighting” to find relevant videos on YouTube.

Each video was analysed to identify which of these behaviours were shown by each cat. Each interaction was then analysed statistically to work out which behaviours appeared together in clusters.

From this, the researchers separated the videos into three categories of interactions.

Playful: included 40% of cats from the videos and included wrestling and a lack of vocalising.

Agonisticagonistic behaviours are any social behaviours that include threatening, aggression and submission. Cats in this group vocalised and had recurring bouts of inactivity; 32% of cats from the sample landed in this group.

Intermediate: this group included 28% of cats and was more closely associated with the playful group than the agonistic group. Cats in this group interacted for prolonged periods with pauses in between.

As a crosscheck, these behavioural categories observed from the videos agreed fairly well with how the four authors, experts in cat behaviour, described each interaction.

Two bengal kittens snoozing in a hammock near a window
Despite being quite territorial, some cats can happily share a home with others of their feline kind. Smile19/Shutterstock

What Does This Tell You About Your Cats’ Play?

If your cats are wrestling, they are most likely playing. When there is friction between cats in a multi-cat household, they tend to avoid physical contact. Instead, they’ll use offensive or defensive manoeuvres that don’t involve extended direct contact, such as slapping.

If your cats are vocalising, and chasing between periods of inactivity (such as crouching) they are most likely fighting. Vocalisation is an especially important clue here to an aggressive, rather than playful interaction. Chasing is OK if it’s mutual, but if one cat is chasing or one cat is running away, that’s not so positive.

The intermediate group is the tricky one. It contains elements of both playful and agonistic behaviours, though was more closely related to the playful than the agonistic group. This suggests play could become agonistic, depending on what happens during the interaction.

In particular, the authors observed frequent breaks within the interaction, which may allow cats to reassess their partner’s interest in playing, and avoid escalation from play to aggression.

The Big Fights Are Easy To Spot

This study is the first to apply a scientific approach to cat behaviours anybody can identify, describing three types of interactions to help identify between play and fighting in cats.

We all know when cats are really fighting, but the main strength is in working out intermediate examples – where it could be OK, but could also escalate.

The study focused on obvious behaviours anybody can observe, but cats can be quite subtle, too. They also use facial expression, ear and tail placement, and pheromones to communicate. These subtle signals may be just as important in differentiating between what is playing and what is fighting.

A cat flattening its ears and hissing at another approaching cat
Not all cat communication is obvious to us humans – they tend to use their ears, faces, and even pheromones to signal to each other. Gurkan Ergun/Shutterstock

If your cats really are besties (sleep in close contact and share food and toys) the occasional bit of agonistic play is okay.

But if your cats don’t get on as well, you might need to watch for signs of agonistic behaviours. Tension between cats is not always obvious, but can affect their physical and mental health.

If you are unsure if your cats are really getting along, seeking help early from an expert in cat behaviour can prevent a cat-astrophe.The Conversation

Susan Hazel, Associate Professor, School of Animal and Veterinary Science, University of Adelaide and Julia Henning, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide

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

One of these underrated animals should be Australia’s 2032 Olympic mascot. Which would you choose?

Wes Mountain/The Conversation/Shutterstockl
Euan RitchieDeakin University

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

Australia is set to host the 2032 Olympic games in Queensland’s capital Brisbane, captivating an audience of billions. With so many eyes on Australia, the burning question is, of course, what animal(s) should be the official mascot(s) of the games, and why?

Summer Olympics past have featured recognisable animal mascots such as Waldi the daschund (Munich, 1972), Amik the beaver (Montreal, 1976), Misha the bear (Moscow, 1980), Sam the eagle (Los Angeles, 1984) and Hodori the tiger (Seoul, 1988).

Iconic and familiar mammals and birds dominate the list. The trend continued at Sydney’s 2000 games which featured Syd (playtpus), Olly (kookaburra) and Millie (echidna).

But the Brisbane Olympics is a great opportunity to showcase lesser known species, including those with uncertain futures.

Sadly Australia is a world leader in extinctions. Highlighting species many are unfamiliar with, the threats to them and their respective habitats and ecosystems, could help to stimulate increased conservation efforts.

From a “worm” that shoots deadly slime from its head, to a blind marsupial mole that “swims” underground, let’s take a look at three leading candidates (plus 13 special mentions). What makes them so special, and what physical and athletic talents do they possess?

Onychophorans, Or Velvet Worms

Cartoon of a velvet worm riding an olympic velodrome bicycle
A potential mascot design. Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Velvet worms are extraordinary forest and woodland denizens thought to have changed little in roughly 500 million years. Australian velvet worms are often smaller than 5 centimetres and look a bit like a worm-caterpillar mash up. They’re found across Australia and other locations globally.

Their waterproof, velvet-like skin is covered in tiny protusions called papillae, which have tactile and smell-sensitive bristles on the end. Velvet worms possess antennae and Australian species have 14-16 pairs of stumpy “legs”, each with a claw that helps them move across uneven surfaces such as logs and rocks.

A velvet worm from Mt Elliot, North Queensland. Alexander Dudley/Faunaverse

Their colour varies between species, often blue, grey, purple or brown. Many display exquisite, detailed and showy patterns that can include diamonds and stripes – clear X-factor for a potential mascot.

Although velvet worms may be relatively small and, dare I say it, adorable, don’t be fooled. These animals are voracious predators.

They capture unsuspecting prey – other invertebrates – at night by firing sticky slime from glands on their heads. Once the victim is subdued, velvet worms bite their prey and inject saliva that breaks down tissues and liquefies them, ready to be easily sucked out.

A velvetine cuddle. A group of adult and juvenile Euperipatoides rowelii. Tanya Latty

If this isn’t intimidating enough, one species (Euperipatoides rowelli) lives and hunts in groups, with a social hierarchy under the control of a dominant female who feeds first following a kill.

Despite their formidable abilities, velvet worms are vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation, and a changing climate.

Jalbil (Boyd’s Forest Dragon)

Cartoon of a jalbil as an Olympic rock climber
A potential mascot design. Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Jalbil is found in the rainforests of tropical North Queensland. They are a truly striking lizard – bearing a prominent pointy crest and a line of spikes down the back, distinct conical cheek scales and a resplendent yellow throat (dewlap) which can be erected to signal to each other.

Despite their colourful and ornate appearance, Jalbil can be very hard to spot as they’re perfectly camouflaged with their surroundings. They spend much of their time clinging vertically to tree trunks often at or below human head-height. Some have favourite trees they use more frequently.

If they detect movement, they simply move around the tree trunk to be out of direct view.

Jalbil (Boyd’s forest dragon) is found in the rainforests of North Queensland’s Wet Tropics. Chris Jolly

Reaching lengths of around 50cm, Jalbil mostly eat invertebrates, including ants, beetles, grasshoppers and worms. Males may have access to multiple female mates, and breeding is stimulated by storms at the beginning of the wet season.

While Jalbil are under no immediate threat, their future is uncertain. Jalbil are ectothermic, so unlike mammals and birds (endothermic), they can’t regulate their internal body heat through metabolism. Sunlight is often very patchy and limited below the rainforest canopy, restricting opportunities for basking to warm up.

Instead, Jalbil simply allow their body temperature to conform with the ambient conditions of their environment (thermo-conforming). This means if climate change leads to increased temperatures in the rainforests of Australia’s Wet Tropics, Jalbil may no longer be able to maintain a safe body temperature and large areas of habitat may also become unsuitable.

Itjaritjari And Kakarratul (Southern And Northern Marsupial Moles)

Cartoon of a marsupial mole swimming in an olympic event.
A potential mascot design. Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND

These remarkable subterranean-dwelling marsupials really are in a league of their own. Both moles can fit in the palm of your hand, measuring up to about 150 millimetres and weighing about as much as a lemon (40-70 grams).

What these diminutive mammals lack in size they make up for in digging power – if only digging were an official Olympic sport. In central dunefields, they can dig up to 60 kilometres of tunnel per hectare.

Marsupial moles are covered in fine, silky, creamy-gold fur. They have powerful short arms with long claws, shovels for furious digging. Their back legs also help them push. Instead of creating and living in permanent burrows, they “swim” underground across Australia’s deserts for most of their lives.

The impressive adaptations don’t end there either. They also have ridiculously short but strong, tough-skinned tails that serve as anchors while digging. Females also have a backwards-facing pouch and all have nose shields that protect their nostrils, ensuring sand doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to.

Due to living underground for most of their lives, many mole mysteries remain regarding their day-to-day lives. Scientists do know they eat a wide range of invertebrates including termites, beetles and ants, and small reptiles such as geckoes.

But while neither species is thought to be in danger of extinction, there are no reliable population estimates across their vast distributions. What’s more, introduced predators (feral cats and foxes) are known to prey upon them. Itjaritjari is listed as vulnerable in the Northern Territory.

And 13 Special Mentions Go To…

With so many amazing wildlife species in Australia, it really is a near impossible task to choose our next mascot. So I also want to give special mentions to the following worthy contenders:

The Australian Giant Cuttlefish

These marine animals put on spectacular, colourful displays each year when they form large breeding aggregations.

Some giant Australian cuttlefish reach one metre in length. Nick PayneAuthor provided

Arnkerrth (Thorny Devil)

A desert-dwelling, ant-eating machine that can drink simply by standing in puddles.

Thorny devils can eat more than 1,000 ants per meal. Euan Ritchie

The Torresian Striped Possum

This striking black and white possum is thought to have the largest brain relative to body size of any marsupial. Their extra long fourth finger makes extracting delicious grubs from rotting wood a cinch.

Black and white striped possum on a branch
The Torresian striped possum moves with speed throughout North Queensland’s rainforests. Shutterstock

Kila (Palm Cockatoo)

Our largest and arguably most spectacular “rockatoo”, which plays the drums.

Palm cockatoo on a branch
The Queensland government moved this species onto the endangered list in 2021. Shutterstock

Ulysses Butterfly

Also known as mountain blue butterflies, the vivid, electric blue wings of Ulysses butterflies can span as much as 130 millimetres.

Blue and black butterfly
An exquisite local of North Queensland. Willem van Aken/CSIRO Science ImageCC BY-SA

The Australian Lungfish

A living fossil, which is now found only in Queensland, can breath air as well as in the water.

The Australian lungfish is restricted to southeast Queensland. Alice Clement

Mupee, Boongary Or Marbi (Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo)

Despite being powerfully built for climbing, Lumholtz’s tree kangaroos are also adept at jumping, when alarmed they’ve been known to jump from heights of up to 15m to the ground.

Two tree kangaroos
Who knew kangaroos could climb and bounce through trees? Shutterstock

The Green Tree Python

Green tree pythons are the most vivid green snake you can possibly imagine. While adult pythons are a vibrant green the juveniles may be bright yellow or red (but not in Australia), changing colour when they are about half a metre long.

Another reptile with serious wow factor. Chris Jolly

The Chameleon Grasshopper

Based on temperature, male chameleon grasshoppers can change colour from black to turquoise, and back to black again, each day.

Chameleon grasshopper on a flower
A kaleidoscope of colour in the Australian alps. Kate Umbers

Greater Gliders

These fabulous fuzzballs can glide up to 100m in a single leap.

Peacock Spiders

Peacock spiders come in rainbow colours and the males sure know how to shake it. Their vivid colours, such as in the species Maratus volans, are due to tiny scales that form nanoscopic lenses created from carbon nanotubes.

Peacock spiders are found only in Australia. Joseph Schubert

Corroboree Frogs

They are a striking black and yellow, and desperately need help.

And finally, I’ll always have a soft spot for Australia’s much maligned canid, the dingo.

So now, over to you. What are your suggestions for unique animal mascots at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics?The Conversation

Euan Ritchie, Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

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

Spotted at Newport on Thursday January 26th - Leo gets to meet some of the SES Warringah-Pittwater Unit volunteer members.


Friday Night Bowls For Youngsters At Newport - Avalon

Bowling clubs, traditionally speaking, are community centres where families meet to engage in social interaction and entertainment. But now there is a ‘new-wave’ interest in lawn bowls as a sport for kids. A game for senior primary and high school students, a game where 10-16 year old boys and girls can learn important skills. Skills we all value like self-discipline, concentration and learning to play with team mates of varying abilities - and all within a club’s supportive environment. 

Newport and Avalon Bowling Clubs are delighted to announce that together with “Lets Play Bowls,”  they will be introducing “Friday Night Bowls for Kids” to the our peninsula. The concept, developed by a  group of retired teachers, a headmaster and bowlers, follows a particular format, timeline and tried and tested rules.

Starting on Friday 3 February, ‘Friday Night Bowls’ involves  four weeks of coaching from 17h30 - 19h00 each Friday, followed by four competition Fridays in March. The programme will be repeated in October and November with the ‘final competition’ taking place in December 2023. All bowls will be provided by the clubs. 

President of Newport Bowling Club, Fred Murray-Walker, believes that growing interest among junior bowlers could lead to the development of a Junior League with inter-club and even inter- state competitions.  “We may even have a Northern Beaches Commonwealth bowler one day,” says Fred.

‘Friday Night Bowls’ is already achieving enormous success in rural NSW. Dubbo Bowls club recently had over 60 primary school children competing in teams of three against each other. Warren Boyd, LPB coordinator, says “The kids loved it and parents too, have been very excited to get involved in supporting this quality after school activity.” 

Fred Murray-Walker,

The cost per child is $10 per year and this is payable at your local bowling club. All fees go to “Lets Play Bowls” for the further development of the program.  Registration must be done on the Lets Play Bows website:

Dennis Heath, head coach at Avalon Bowls, has been working with High School students for some time. He says “Bowls is becoming a cool sport to play. Once  kids are playing they come to love the game, this has been proven many times over.  It’s a sport they can play with their friends, their parents and even their grandparents.”

Come on down to Newport or Avalon and give bowls a go!


Back To School In 2023: Getting To School By Ferry - Australia's First 'School Boat' Ran In Pittwater

Church Point Ferry Service's Amelia K still brings children to Newport Wharf each school day to attend Newport PS
School holidays end and the first school term for 2023 begins on Tuesday January 31st, with some walking to school, or riding their bike, or catching a bus, and some catching a ferry to Newport Public School and disembarking at Newport wharf and some disembarking at Church Point wharf for Pittwater High School.

In fact Pittwater had the first 'school boat' which commenced 117 years ago. This was to bring children who lived at Barrenjoey, or over at Currawong Beach, Mackerel Beach and the Basin, as well as Scotland Island, Elvina and Lovett Bays to school as there was no school for children after that which had opened for children of lighthouse keepers at Barrenjoey had closed, and although a school opened in the old church at Church Point and later ran in a cottage at Bayview, by 1906 there were simply too many children living here and a school at Mona Vale was built while the other, at Newport, also took in more new students.

The school held in the old church at Church Point commenced from May 1883 and then transferred to a building at Bayview near where The Quays marina is now - this was called the 'Pittwater Public School'. The Newport public school, first run in a tent, began in April 1888 and Mona Vale began in 1906 in temporary rooms in Park street to begin with, while a new and bigger school was built at Mona Vale at the current school site for the Primary school and opened in 1912. 

A special 'Back to school' history page for you runs this week HERE

Above: 'Church Point, Pitt Water - 20 minutes from Sydney' by A. J. Vogan (Arthur James), 1859-1948, [circa. 1910 - ca. 1915]. Courtesy State Library of Victoria. Image H82.254/8/29 - showing the chapel; Church point was named for - see Methodist Church at Church Point History - 'A Church at Church Point!'


DEMOLISHED METHODIST CHURCH. Erected in 1872 on Church Point, Pittwater, this old building was recently demolished. DEMOLISHED METHODIST CHURCH. (1932, April 7). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from

AMA: Time For Australia To Join 85 Countries And Jurisdictions Taxing Sugary Drinks

As dozens more governments around the world adopt a sugar tax and new evidence shows this tax can improve dental health, the Australian Medical Association has renewed its call for Australia to implement a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB).

The AMA’s latest report, Why tax sugary drinks?, part of its #Sickly-Sweet campaign, argues the tax is an effective preventative health measure and would reduce Australians’ consumption of sugary drinks, which are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

The report shows an additional 40 countries and jurisdictions globally have adopted a sugar tax since the AMA’s first research report in June 2021 and includes a new focus on oral health. It details how sugary drinks decay and erode teeth and highlights shocking AIHW findings including a prevalence of dental caries in the baby teeth of 42 per cent (four in ten) of Australian children.

The AMA call for an SSB tax follows new evidence from the World Health Organization on the effectiveness of sugar taxes around the world in an implementation guide, which also debunks tactics used by drinks industries seeking to dissuade implementation.

While the WHO report explains a predictable time lag in SSB implementation and impacts on population health outcomes, it found one exception where a ‘significant reduction in the incidence of dental caries among a population in Mexico’ coincided with the introduction of a SSB tax.

AMA Vice President, Dr Danielle McMullen said Australia was becoming the odd one out in the world by not adopting a tax on SSBs.

“Australians drinks enough sugary drinks to fill 960 Olympic swimming pools each year.  We need something to help people choose water instead.

“We’re recommending the federal government tax 40 cents on every 100g of sugar manufacturers add to drinks ─ that will mean just a 16-cent increase to the price of a regular can of fizzy drink, but for that you’ll get a great health outcome.

“Over a 25-year period, we estimate this would result in 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease and 1,100 fewer cases of stroke. It would also generate revenue of up to $814 million annually which we say should be spent on preventative health measures.

“It’s no wonder 85 governments across the globe are choosing to tax sugary drinks and other products this way, because the evidence is showing it’s effective at reducing consumption of these products and raising revenue, so why not in Australia?”

“Magda Szubanski got no joy when she recently asked the same question to Health Minister, Mark Butler, on her Big National Health Check.

“It’s just baffling why Australia is unwilling to take advantage of this win-win-situation, especially at a time when healthcare costs are under the spotlight, you’d think the government would take every opportunity to reduce the chronic disease burden on the health system and improve its bottom line at the same time,” Dr McMullen said.  

“The AMA will continue pushing for a sugary drinks tax because it’s the right thing to do for the health of Australians, it will save lives and millions of dollars in healthcare costs.”

The AMA’s call for a tax on sugary drinks is a key plank of AMA's Vision for Australia’s Health ─ a blueprint for a robust, sustainable health system.

NSW Welcomes Record Intake Of Junior Doctors

January 24, 2023
Staff and patients in NSW public hospitals are set to benefit from a major workforce boost with almost 1,100 medical graduate interns starting work in city and country hospitals this week – more than any other state or territory in Australia.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor extended a warm welcome to the class of 2023, the biggest intake of medical graduate interns ever in NSW.

Minister Hazzard said the new medical graduates were ready to launch rewarding careers in health, working with and learning from NSW's experienced and highly skilled medical staff in hospitals across the state.

"These new doctors have chosen a very rewarding career path and during their internships will build their skills and gain diverse experience across a range of medical specialties in metropolitan, rural and regional areas," Mr Hazzard said.

"They will also be a tremendous boost to their colleagues already in the hospitals – our dedicated health staff who have performed remarkably during a very challenging three years.

"The NSW Government is continuing to invest in building the state's health workforce so that communities continue to receive world-class healthcare in public hospitals in our cities and rural and regional areas."

Minister Taylor said the new medical graduates will be welcomed with open arms to our rural and regional hospitals, with almost one third or 396 of the positions in the bush.

"The NSW Nationals and Liberals in Government are committed to strengthening our regional health workforce, and ensuring the people of rural and regional NSW continue to have access to the high-quality healthcare they need and deserve," Mrs Taylor said.

"Interns seeking to complete their internship in our regions were able to apply through the Rural Preferential Recruitment pathway and, this year, 176 Rural Preferential intern positions were available – an increase of 13 positions from 2022."

Interns are medical graduates who have completed their medical degree and are required to complete a supervised year of practice in order to become independent practitioners.

The new doctors starting their internship will be entering a training program with networked hospitals throughout the state, providing formal and on-the-job training.

They receive two-year contracts to rotate between metropolitan, regional and rural hospitals to ensure the diversity of their experience. They also rotate across different specialties during the intern year, including surgery, medicine and emergency medicine.

The NSW Government states it is investing a record $33 billion in health as part of the 2022 - 23 NSW Budget. The NSW Government has also announced the largest workforce boost in the nation's history with a $4.5 billion investment over four years for 10,148 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff to hospitals and health services across NSW.

$2.5 Million Investment For A 'Home Away From Home' For Cancer Patients​ Across Central, Western And Far West NSW

January 23, 2023
​Cancer patients across Central, Western and Far West NSW who travel to Dubbo to receive treatment will be able to access affordable accommodation – or a home away from home – with the NSW State Government announcing $2.5 million to deliver a purpose-built oncology accommodation precinct.

The NSW Coalition State Government stated the measures come after the Federal Labor Government cut funding to Macquarie Home Stay in the recent Federal Budget, putting the crucial expansion of this specialised medical accommodation facility in doubt.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the demand for affordable accommodation is there, with the Western Cancer Centre providing care to people living across the region, including the communities of Walgett, Bourke and Cobar.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is stressful enough and the last thing I want is people delaying treatment because they are unable to cover the cost of the accommodation while receiving the care they need,” Mrs Taylor said.

“Macquarie Home Stay has done an incredible job supporting patients, their families and their carers across Central, Western and Far West NSW during some of the toughest moments of their life. This expansion will ensure the support is there for even more people.”

Minister for Western NSW and Member for the Dubbo Electorate Dugald Saunders said the $2.5 million investment will help deliver 26 new rooms, more than doubling the current capacity of Macquarie Home Stay.

“Following the opening of the Western Cancer Centre, Dubbo has become a centre of excellence for healthcare in Central, Western and Far West NSW,” Mr Saunders said.

“We know that people come from well beyond the local community to receive care here, and this Government is committed to removing the barriers to ensure everyone can get the care they need no matter where they live.

“Since the Federal Labor Government pulled funding for this vital expansion, I have spoken with the Premier, Deputy Premier and Minister Taylor about the importance of this investment. Today is a great day for the people of Central, Western and Far West NSW, who know that this Government has your back.”

Mrs Taylor said the announcement complements the $149.5 million expansion of the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), announced as part of the 2022-23 NSW Government Budget.

“With the increased subsidies through IPTAAS and affordable, specialised health accommodation in Dubbo, patients and their families won’t have to make sacrifices to receive to receive treatment,” Mrs Taylor said.

“Since the changes came into effect in August 2022, more than 6,400 people have accessed the scheme in the Central, Western and Far West NSW saving them hundreds, even thousands of dollars.”

Macquarie Home Stay is a purpose-built accommodation facility for people accessing medical services in Dubbo.

Macquarie Home Stay opened in January 2019 with 17 units and it provides accommodation for people in the central west, north western and western NSW districts who travel to Dubbo to access healthcare.

Regional Trials Of Zero Emission Buses In NSW

January 23, 2023
The NSW Government is pushing ahead with a $3 billion commitment to transition its bus and coach fleet to zero emission technology, with a new trial set to begin across regional NSW.

The Expression of Interest (EOI) process is now open for bus and coach operators to participate in the $25 million Regional Zero Emission Bus Trials.

Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean said zero emission bus technology is a key part of the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

“The transition of our bus fleet will have widespread benefits including improving air quality, noise reduction, a smoother trip for commuters and creating jobs right across NSW,” Mr Kean said.

“Hydrogen is one of the many ways forward in the heavy transport sector and this will ensure investment in clean technology, grow the economy and support regional jobs.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said the trials present a great opportunity to partner with transport operators in regional areas to deliver new and more energy efficient transport options.

"We are about to kick off our first hydrogen bus trial on the Central Coast to better understand how the technology compares to battery electric buses and this trial will determine the most suitable technology to deliver the best services for our regional and rural communities,” Mr Farraway said. 

“We’re always looking at new ways to improve our bus network and services across regional NSW.

“We’ve now delivered more than 3,000 additional bus services under our 16 Regional Cities Services Improvement Program, making it easier and more reliable for communities to travel to work, school, visit friends and family and get to medical appointments and essential services.”

The expression of interest for the Regional Zero Emission Bus Trials is available by visiting eTenders and will remain open until 2 March 2023.

5 reasons to check on your elderly neighbour during a heatwave

Sarah CunninghamGriffith University and Shannon RutherfordGriffith University

We all know someone who insists on wearing a cardigan in summer or refuses to turn on the air conditioning because “it’s not that hot”. Chances are this is an older person, and there’s a good reason for that.

As we get older, we tend to not “feel” the heat as much even though our bodies are less able to handle the heat. This contradiction can have lethal consequences, especially during periods of extreme heat.

So, why is extreme heat so dangerous for older people? And what can we do to help?

Why Are Older People At Risk?

Extreme heat kills more Australians than all other natural hazards, and people aged 60 or older account for 69% of those deaths.

There are five key reasons we’re more susceptible to heat as we get older.

1. Bodily changes

One of the main ways we lose excess heat, blood flowing to our skin, isn’t as effective as we get older. This is in part because the blood vessels in our skin don’t expand fast enough, and we may have less blood pumping with each beat of our heart.

Many other changes in our bodies also lead us to gain and store more heat as we get older. These include how our bodies control sweat and how well our kidneys balance fluid, which are both important for staying cool.

2. Social isolation

Loneliness and social isolation are health risks on their own, but also multiply the risk of heat-related illness.

A South Australian survey of older people showed those who were socially isolated were less confident in asking for help during a heatwave.

This is concerning as many older Australians live alone, and we are more likely to live alone as we get older.

3. Beliefs and behaviour

Older Australians may not respond to heat in ways that protect their own health and wellbeing. Australian culture tends to view heat tolerance as a matter of resilience and identity, where there is a sense of generational pride in being able to cope with the heat.

Reports also suggest many older people have concerns about the cost of air conditioning, may be hesitant to use it, or accidentally use reverse cycle units as heaters.

4. Medical issues

Many chronic illnesses that are more common with age are also associated with an increased risk for heat-related illness. Because blood flow is so important for regulating our body temperature, it’s not surprising that conditions such as heart failure and diabetes are associated with increased heat risk.

Similarly, many medications commonly prescribed for chronic illnesses can interfere with how our body regulates temperature. For instance, some blood pressure medicines reduce our ability to sweat and lose heat.

5. Home environment

It is increasingly difficult for older Australians to find affordable and appropriate housing, especially pensioners and renters.

Poor home design, lack of insulation, inability to pay their energy bills, and limited income all contribute to being vulnerable to heatwaves in Australia. This is particularly troubling as energy prices soar.

What Can We Do?

Older Australians

Knowing the risks of extreme heat is the first step. Don’t underestimate your own risk during a heatwave.

There are many practical ways we can all keep ourselves and our homes cool, both safely and efficiently. These include:

  • using a fan, which is effective, especially when it’s humid, but may not be enough when it’s very hot and dry. If you have an air conditioner, consider using it
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Do you know the signs of heat-related illness? SA Health
  • knowing the conditions inside your home by installing thermometers that ideally also measure humidity so you know which ways will work best to cool down

  • opening windows facing away from the sun when it’s cooler outside; otherwise keep blinds closed in the heat of the day

  • taking cool showers or applying a damp cloth to the back of your neck can help cool the skin

  • taking regular, small drinks of water, even when you’re not thirsty (unless you have heart or kidney problems in which case you need to talk to your doctor first as too much water may be a problem for you)

  • knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Older relatives, friends and neighbours

We can all keep an eye on our older relatives, friends and neighbours as:

  • keeping in touch is great protection from heat-related illness; check in regularly

  • when an older person can’t keep the house cool, support a day trip to a cooler place such as a library, cinema, or shopping centre

  • encourage them to talk to their doctor about how medical conditions or medications might increase their risk to heat.

We Need To Raise Awareness

Australians are growing complacent about the health risks of extreme heat, see heatwaves as normal and public health messages aren’t cutting through any more.

It’s also important to remember that older people aren’t all the same, so any public health approaches to extreme heat should be tailored to communities and individuals.

One way we’re trying to help is by working directly with older people. Together, we’re researching and developing a smart device that makes it easier to know when your house is getting warm, and customising strategies you can use to cool down safely.The Conversation

Sarah Cunningham, Doctoral Candidate in Public Health, Griffith University and Shannon Rutherford, Associate Professor, Public Health, Griffith University

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

Want your child to eat more veggies? Talk to them about ‘eating the rainbow’

Emma BeckettUniversity of Newcastle

Parents of young children today were raised during some of the most damaging periods of diet culture. From diet and “lite” foods and drinks, to expensive “superfoods”, one constant across these changing trends has been the moralisation of food as “good” or “bad”.

These diet movements have led to many of us having difficult relationships with food, eating and dieting. If this sounds familiar, you might be wondering how to use the fun features of healthy foods to encourage kids to eat more of them.

“Eating the rainbow” means regularly eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables. Encouraging your child to eat a rainbow is backed by the evidence and can start more well-rounded and positive conversations with them about foods.

Encouraging Variety

All fruits and vegetables are good for us. Depending on the age and sex of your child, Australia’s dietary guidelines recommend they eat 2–5.5 serves of vegetables and a 0.5–2 serves of fruit each day.

Each fruit and vegetable has it’s own unique profile of nutrients, so the wider variety of fruit and vegetables you eat in those serves, the better.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day has more benefits than just eating the one type on repeat, so striving for the rainbow can help encourage variety.

Serving variety and colourful meals can also encourage us to eat more. So if you or your kids are struggling to eat enough fruit and vegetables, you can use the rainbow to help get all those serves in.

Sparking Adventurousness

Chasing the rainbow can also help kids break out of their comfort zones and can be an early way to encourage adventurousness for new foods.

While kids can benefit from routine, there are links between how adventurous we are with trying new foods and other healthy traits and habits. Those who love trying new things tend to have a higher quality diet than those who hate trying new things.

Mother helps child prepare vegetables
Chasing the rainbow can make kids more adventurious with their food choices. Pexels/August de Richelieu

Starting Early Conversations About The Complexities Of Food

Most parents of today’s kids were raised during the “reductionist” era of nutrition. The focus wasn’t on whole, complex foods, but on the key macro and micronutrients they contain. So, bread becomes all about the carbs and citrus becomes all about the vitamin C.

When we think along these lines it’s easy to think bread is “bad” and citrus fruits are only a good source of vitamin C.

But foods are much more complex than this. Nutrients are rarely found in just one food, and each food is seldom made of just one nutrient. And even more importantly, food isn’t just nutrients – it also contains “bioactive compounds”.

These bioactives, which you might also see called phytonutrients or phytochemicals (phyto means from plants), occur naturally in plant foods. They’re not essential for our survival like nutrients are, but they can have healthy benefits.

Often these bioactives are linked to colours, so foods of different colours not only have different nutritional profiles, but they have different bioactive profiles too.

In fact, the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their colours are often bioactives. For example, reds can be lycopenes, linked to heart and blood vessel health and purples can be anothcyanins, linked to improved inflammation.

Kids don’t need to know which bioactive goes with which colour, or what they all do. But you can start conversations about the complexity of our biology and the food that nourishes it.

Plate of colourful food
Pigments can do different things. Anna Pelzer/Unsplash

Where Does Fresh Food Come From?

Survey data regularly shows many kids don’t know where their food comes from, or don’t know which fruits and vegetables are which.

Fruits and vegetables often change colours when they ripen, and different parts of the plants they come from are different colours. So talking about the rainbow can open up conversations about:

  • where food comes from
  • how it grows
  • which parts of each plant are safe to eat
  • which parts of the plants are tasty.

Rainbows Go With Everything

As children get older, you can start talking about what happens to the colours of foods when when you cook or mix them. Some foods that aren’t very tasty alone might be more palatable when you mix them with some other colours. For example, bitter green leafy vegetables can be tastier if we combine them with sour from citrus or sweetness from berries.

Cooking might make foods brighter or duller, and can release or change nutrients and bioactives.

Colours can be used in kitchen science experiments – like cabbage or blueberries acting as natural indicators of acidity.

Kids don’t need to know all the details to benefit from eating the rainbow, but talking about colours can spark curiosity. The rainbow is diverse, so it reduces the focus on individual foods, making healthy eating easier and more fun.The Conversation

Emma Beckett, Senior Lecturer (Food Science and Human Nutrition), School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

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

My teen’s vaping. What should I say? 3 expert tips on how to approach ‘the talk’

Olena Bohovyk/Pexels
Joshua TriggFlinders University and Billie BonevskiFlinders University

You’ve dropped your daughter off at her friend’s house and while cleaning the car, you find what looks like a USB drive on the passenger seat. It’s a disposable vape.

You’ve seen the news. Vapes or e-cigarettes are harmful yet increasingly popular with people her age.

You call to ask if the vape’s hers. It is and she’s been vaping occasionally for a few weeks. You say you’ll talk about it later.

But what will you actually say?

1. Know Your Facts

It’s important to be across accurate and up-to-date information about vaping. Evidence-based resources for parents and carers in Australia include:

  • the Lung Foundation’s evidence-based resources

  • factsheets, videos and webinars from NSW Health that help dispel any misconceptions parents might have about vaping. This includes whether vapes are likely to contain nicotine and the accuracy of labelling

  • Quit Victoria’s resources for parents and teens, including brief guides that cover the essentials on vaping, including busting a few myths.

A common theme across such resources for parents is to bring home the reality of vaping in terms of how many teens are actually doing it, what current health evidence shows, and why it’s more than just media coverage of incidents at schools.

In a nutshell, vapes are easy to access, teen vaping is common and it’s becoming normalised in this age group.

Our own unpublished research with young people aged 16-26, provides some insights. We’ve heard vaping called a “clean alternative” to smoking (it’s not), and a “social activity” at school or parties. One young participant has seen others “nic sick”, or nauseous from vaped nicotine.

There’s mounting evidence pointing to physical health harms and unknown mental health risks from vaping. There’s no reason for a teen to be vaping, even if adults might take this approach in quitting smoking. Many vapes contain nicotine, whatever the label says, with the potential for dependence or addiction.

2. Listen More Than Speak

It might be tempting to deliver a lecture on the dangers of vaping. But conversations are more likely to be effective if they are clear, open, and constructive, with thought about how to focus on discussing health harms.

Mother discussing tricky topic with disinterested teenage son
It might be tempting to deliver a lecture. But other approaches are more likely to work. Kindel Media/PexelsCC BY-SA

So use some of these tips, based on ones from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation:

  • approach the conversation calmly, during a shared activity, such as walking the dog

  • consider questions your teen may ask, and how you want to respond

  • don’t assume, avoid accusations, show trust

  • no judging; really listen to their perspective (listen more than speak) and respect they have a different and unique worldview and opinions. Understand their social life and create an environment where they can discuss this with you

  • don’t exaggerate, just stick to the facts. Remember, your teen may have already received vaping and health resources from school and be aware of the health impacts and uncertainties about long-term health risks of vaping

  • tailor your discussion based on whether your teen vapes occasionally, is addicted and/or wants support to quit

  • respect their privacy

  • show that their health is your focus.

3. Support Quitting

But what if it’s gone beyond trying vaping, and your teen feels they have a dependency or addiction?

Services such as Quitline, which traditionally provide counselling for people wanting to stop smoking, are increasingly receiving calls from teens struggling with vaping-related nicotine dependence.

Parents can also call Quitline (phone: 13 78 48) to plan the conversation with a teenager about vaping. They can also contact a GP to help their teen treat nicotine dependence and related effects.

Extra resources about vaping for parents and teens are available in New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaAustralia Capital Territory and Northern Territory.The Conversation

Joshua Trigg, Research Fellow in Public Health, Flinders University and Billie Bonevski, Professor of Public Health, Flinders University

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

Dietary Nitrate Found In Beetroot Juice Significantly Increases Muscle Force During Exercise

January 23, 2023
A new study has found that consuming dietary nitrate -- the active molecule in beetroot juice -- significantly increased muscle force while exercising. While it is known that dietary nitrate enhances exercise, both boosting endurance and enhancing high-intensity exercise, researchers still have much to learn about why this effect occurs, and how our bodies convert dietary nitrate that we ingest into the nitric oxide that can be used by our cells. 

To help close this gap, researchers at the University of Exeter,  the University of Queensland, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health traced the distribution of ingested nitrate in the saliva, blood, muscle and urine of ten healthy volunteers, who were then asked to perform maximal leg exercise. The team wanted to discover where in the body the dietary nitrate was active, to give clues on the mechanisms at work.

An hour after the nitrate was taken, participants were asked to perform 60 contractions of the quadriceps -- the thigh muscle active while straightening the knee -- at maximum intensity over five minutes on an exercise machine. The team found a significant increase in the nitrate levels in muscle. During the exercises, researchers found this nitrate boost caused an increase in muscle force of seven per cent, compared to when the participants took a placebo.

Andy Jones, Professor of Applied Physiology at the University of Exeter, said: "Our research has already provided a large body of evidence on the performance-enhancing properties of dietary nitrate, commonly found in beetroot juice. Excitingly, this latest study provides the best evidence to date on the mechanisms behind why dietary nitrate improves human muscle performance."

Previous studies had found an increase of nitrate in tissue and body fluid after ingesting labelled dietary nitrate. By using the tracer in the new study, researchers were able to accurately assess where nitrate is increased and active, and also shed new light on how the nitrate we consume is used to enhance exercise performance.

"This study provides the first direct evidence that muscle nitrate levels are important for exercise performance, presumably by acting as a source of nitric oxide," said Dr Barbora Piknova, research collaborator and staff scientist in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. "These results have significant implications not only for the exercise field, but possibly for other medical areas such as those targeting neuromuscular and metabolic diseases related to nitric oxide deficiency."

The research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Queensland, Australia, under the QUEX partnership with Exeter.

Stefan Kadach, Ji Won Park, Zdravko Stoyanov, Matthew I. Black, Anni Vanhatalo, Mark Burnley, Peter J. Walter, Hongyi Cai, Alan N. Schechter, Barbora Piknova, Andrew M. Jones. 15 N ‐labeled dietary nitrate supplementation increases human skeletal muscle nitrate concentration and improves muscle torque production. Acta Physiologica, 2023; DOI: 10.1111/apha.13924

Asteroid Findings From Specks Of Space Dust Could Save The Planet

January 23, 2023
Curtin University-led research into the durability and age of an ancient asteroid made of rocky rubble and dust, revealed significant findings that could contribute to potentially saving the planet if one ever hurtled toward Earth.

The international team studied three tiny dust particles collected from the surface of ancient 500-metre-long rubble pile asteroid, Itokawa, returned to Earth by the Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa 1 probe.

The study’s results showed asteroid Itokawa, which is 2 million kilometres from Earth and around the size of Sydney Harbour Bridge, was hard to destroy and resistant to collision.

Lead author Professor Fred Jourdan, Director of the Western Australian Argon Isotope Facility, part of the John de Laeter Centre and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin, said the team also found Itokawa is almost as old as the solar system itself.

"Unlike monolithic asteroids, Itokawa is not a single lump of rock, but belongs to the rubble pile family which means it’s entirely made of loose boulders and rocks, with almost half of it being empty space,” Professor Jourdan said.

“The survival time of monolithic asteroids the size of Itokawa is predicted to be only several hundreds of thousands of years in the asteroid belt.

“The huge impact that destroyed Itokawa’s monolithic parent asteroid and formed Itokawa happened at least 4.2 billion years ago. Such an astonishingly long survival time for an asteroid the size of Itokawa is attributed to the shock-absorbent nature of rubble pile material.

“In short, we found that Itokawa is like a giant space cushion, and very hard to destroy.”

The Curtin-led team used two complementary techniques to analyse the three dust particles. The first one is called Electron Backscattered Diffraction and can measure if a rock has been shocked by any meteor impact. The second method - argon-argon dating - is used to date asteroid impacts.

Co-author Associate Professor Nick Timms, also from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the durability of rubble pile asteroids was previously unknown, jeopardising the ability to design defence strategies in case one was hurtling toward Earth.

“We set out to answer whether rubble pile asteroids are resistant to being shocked or whether they fragment at the slightest knock,” Associate Professor Timms said.

“Now that we have found they can survive in the solar system for almost its entire history, they must be more abundant in the asteroid belt than previously thought, so there is more chance that if a big asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, it will be a rubble pile.

“The good news is that we can also use this information to our advantage - if an asteroid is detected too late for a kinetic push, we can then potentially use a more aggressive approach like using the shockwave of a close-by nuclear blast to push a rubble-pile asteroid off course without destroying it.”

Curtin University co-authors include Associate Professor William Rickard, Celia Mayers, Professor Steven Reddy, Dr David Saxey and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland, all from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 

Fred Jourdan, Nicholas E. Timms, Tomoki Nakamura, William D. A. Rickard, Celia Mayers, Steven M. Reddy, David Saxey, Luke Daly, Phil A. Bland, Ela Eroglu, Denis Fougerouse. Rubble pile asteroids are forever. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2023; 120 (5) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2214353120

How Plants Are Inspiring New Ways To Extract Value From Wastewater

January 24, 2023
Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) are drawing inspiration from plants to develop new techniques to separate and extract valuable minerals, metals and nutrients from resource-rich wastewater.

The ANU researchers are adapting plant 'membrane separation mechanisms' so they can be embedded in new wastewater recycling technologies. This approach offers a sustainable solution to help manage the resources required for the world's food, energy and water security by providing a way to harvest, recycle and reuse valuable metal, mineral and nutrient resources from liquid wastes.

The technology could benefit a range of industries such as agriculture, aquaculture, desalination, battery recycling and mining. It could also help companies rethink their approach to how they deal with waste by creating a way to extract value from wastewater. The research also has implications for flood- and drought-prone areas across Australia.

It's estimated global wastewater contains three million metric tonnes of phosphorus, 16.6 million metric tonnes of nitrogen and 6.3 million metric tonnes of potassium. The recovery of these nutrients from wastewater could offset 13.4 per cent of global agricultural demand for these resources.

The ammonia and hydrogen molecules, among others, that are embedded in wastewater could provide electricity to 158 million households.

"The world's wastewater contains a jumbled mess of resources that are incredibly valuable, but only in their pure form. A big challenge researchers face is figuring out how to efficiently extract these valuable minerals, metals and nutrients while retaining their purity," ANU plant scientist Associate Professor Caitlin Byrt said.

"The Australian mining industry for example creates more than 500 million tonnes of waste per year, and these wastes are rich in resources like copper, lithium and iron. But at the moment the liquid waste is just a problem; it can't be dumped and it can't be used. It's just waste unless each resource can be separated out in a pure form.

"This is particularly the case in the battery recycling space; you have this huge, rich source of lithium inside dead batteries, but we can't yet extract or reuse it efficiently. Harvesting resources from industrial and urban waste is a key step towards transitioning to a circular green economy and building a sustainable future, as well as reducing our carbon footprint."

The researchers investigated the specialised molecular mechanisms that help plants recognise and separate different metal, mineral and nutrient molecules contained in soil, allowing them to sort the good from the bad -- an essential biological process necessary for their growth and development.

"Resources such as boron, iron, lithium and phosphorus are used in battery technologies and plants are masters at separating these types of resources," Associate Professor Byrt said.

Ammonia, a compound used to create fertiliser and an essential material in crop production, is another key resource scientists are looking to extract from liquid waste solutions.

"Fertiliser costs are going through the roof, which puts a lot of pressure on Australian farmers to be able to afford these higher prices and yet we're wasting huge proportions of these molecules and that's causing environmental problems," Associate Professor Byrt said.

"Ammonia is also a critical storage molecule for hydrogen fuels. So, as we continue to develop hydrogen fuel industries, there will be an increase in demand for ammonia for use as a storage molecule, because that's how the hydrogen fuel industry will be able to transport the stored hydrogen around and ultimately use it as a potential fuel source for fuelling cars and other technologies."

Associate Professor Byrt said advances in precision separation technology could also offer security to flood- and drought-prone communities across Australia by providing them with portable, secure and reliable access to clean drinking water in the face of worsening weather events as a result of climate change.

"Clean water and the security of nutrient resources underpin agricultural productivity. Development of technologies to sustainably manage these resources is essential for food security in Australia and globally," she said.

Annamaria De Rosa, Samantha McGaughey, Isobel Magrath, Caitlin Byrt. Molecular membrane separation: plants inspire new technologies. New Phytologist, 2023; DOI: 10.1111/nph.18762

 Associate Professor Caitlin Byrt. Photo: Nic Vevers, ANU

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.