Inbox and environment news: Issue 582

May 7 - 13  2023: Issue 582

Protect Mona Vale's Bongin Bongin Bay - Establish An Aquatic Reserve

Who are we? 
We are a group of locals who are leading a campaign to have Mona Vale's Bongin Bongin Bay (Mona Vale Basin) declared as an aquatic reserve.

Our group is made up of local swimmers, surfers, surf life savers and beach users. Our group has no political affiliation. We are just passionate locals who care about our environment. 

What are we proposing?
With your support, we will be asking Northern Beaches Council to lobby the NSW Government to establish a 'no take' zone at Bongin Bongin Bay (Mona Vale Basin).

The establishment of this aquatic reserve will protect local marine biodiversity now and into the future.

In area the proposed aquatic reserve will be approximately 451,000 square meters (45 hectares). It will have a boundary (perimeter ) of 3.8km.

Why do we support this?
We use the beach every day throughout the year and believe this unique environment is worthy of protection. We regularly see stingrays, dolphins, blue gropers, sharks, octopus, cuttlefish and many other species in and around Bongin Bongin Bay. Occasionally we have seen turtles, penguins and migrating whales.

However, we believe that fishing and the collection of crustaceans, shellfish and vegetation from the foreshore is impacting upon the biodiversity and the local ecosystem. 

Species that were seen regularly in and around Bongin Bongin Bay disappear after weekend fishers have been present.

Find out more at:

Thank you
Friends of Bongin Bongin Bay (Mona Vale Basin)

Bongin Bongin Bay - Mona Vale Basin on Monday 7 Feb. 2022. Photo by Joe Mills


Little Corella Fledgling Being Fed

PON yard May 1st 2023

The scientific name for Little Corella, Cacatua sanguinea, means 'Blood-stained Cockatoo' and refers to the dark pink markings between the eye and the bill.

National Net Zero Authority

May 5, 2023

The Albanese Government has stated it will legislate a national Net Zero Authority to ensure the workers, industries and communities that have powered Australia for generations can seize the opportunities of Australia’s net zero transformation.

The global transformation to a net zero economy is a massive source of economic opportunity for Australia, its regions, industries and workers. The Authority will have responsibility for promoting the orderly and positive economic transformation associated with achieving net zero emissions.

The current federal government has stated the previous LNP Government put its head in the sand for a decade and ignored the pleas of communities, unions and business for coordination and support through this massive change. In contrast, the current federal Government states it aims to capitalise on our potential as a renewable energy superpower.

The new, legislated Net Zero Authority will:

  1. Support workers in emissions-intensive sectors to access new employment, skills and support as the net zero transformation continues.
  2. Coordinate programs and policies across government to support regions and communities to attract and take advantage of new clean energy industries and set those industries up for success.
  3. Help investors and companies to engage with net zero transformation opportunities.

To kickstart the Authority’s responsibilities immediately, the Government intends to establish an Agency from July 1 this year, initially housed in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Agency will also lead on providing advice to Government on the final design and establishment of the legislated National Net Zero Authority.

The Authority will work with state, territory and local governments, existing regional bodies, unions, industry, investors, First Nations groups and others to help key regions, industries, employers and others proactively manage the transformation to a clean energy economy.

The Government will also provide additional funding from the $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund to support existing industry – such as rail and aviation – and new clean energy industries, with the creation of a $400 million Industrial Transformation Stream.

Over 150 countries have now committed to net zero by 2050, including almost all major economies and the majority of Australia’s trading partners. With renewable energy, the cheapest form of new energy, investor interest in Australian industries is following these trends.

The shift to net zero emissions by 2050 must happen fairly for Australians in emissions-intensive industries and the communities they live and work in.

The regions that have always powered Australia can power Australia into the future, but we need to seize those opportunities, the government states. 

''This Authority is about leaving no-one behind as this global shift continues.''

Palaszczuk Government’s Response To Gas-Induced Subsidence Report Leaves Best Farmland At Risk

May 5, 2023

Recommendations accepted by the Palaszczuk Government in response to the QLD Gasfield Commission’s subsidence report fail to do anything to prevent the serious damage the coal seam gas industry is inflicting across some of the state’s best farmland, environment campaigners and farmers state.

The government released its response to the QLD Gasfield Commission's coal seam gas-induced subsidence review, and said it would accept six recommendations in full, and two in principle.

LTGA National Coordinator Ellen Roberts criticised the Palaszczuk Government for continuing to peddle the myth of “coexistence”, and said the recommendations would not stop the gas industry from putting more of the state’s best farmland out of production.

“This report is basically the Palaszczuk Government telling farmers that gas is going to make their land sink, and farmers have no choice but to put up with it and seek a resolution after the fact. That’s not coexistence by any stretch of the imagination," she said.

“These gasfields are on some of the best cropping country in Australia. This is land the government should be protecting at all costs. Instead it is giving the gas industry free rein to continue drilling, thereby causing this farmland to sink.

“Subsidence reduces crop yields and impacts water flow, and is a very serious issue for Queensland’s farmers. These recommendations simply do not go far enough.

“Rather than giving the gas industry the go ahead to continue laying waste to the Darling and Western Downs, the Palaszczuk Government should say enough is enough and ban any further expansion of this insidious industry. At a bare minimum, farmland classified as priority agricultural land and strategic cropping land under the Regional Planning Interests Act must be off limits to new CSG drilling, and the Palaszczuk Government must reject Arrow Energy’s two current applications (RIDAs) to drill this best of the best farmland.”

NT Government Fast-Tracks Beetaloo Fracking Despite Senate Inquiry  Recommendations, Widespread Community Opposition And No Need Of Product For 'East Coast' Shortfall

The Northern Territory Government announced it will allow fracking to go ahead in the Beetaloo Basin. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles made the announcement late on Wednesday May 3rd. The announcement came as an open letter signed by 96 scientists to the NT Government ran in major newspapers across the country on the same day and just weeks after a Senate Inquiry released a list of 14 recommendations as a result of that Inquiry into fracking in the Northern Territory, and has called for an immediate halt on exploration and production until they are in place, and as it was found that that government has still not implemented its own Pepper Fracking Inquiry recommendations to prevent increases in greenhouse gas emissions (Rec 9.8), nor have they moved to protect water resources (Rec 7.3). The Fyles Government have stated a policy to offset Scope 2 or 3 emissions from fracking is not yet in place and they expect the federal government to 'cover that' for them through its policies.

One of the signatories, Professor England, has expressed concerns that there was often too high a reliance on offsetting emissions as a solution to reaching net zero.

The focus, he said, should be on reducing emissions. 

"All of the proposals I've seen to burn fossil fuels at one end and then somehow have measures to absorb those fossil fuels with planting trees, growing seaweed or carbon capture and storage just don't work here in Australia," he said. 

"I'm really concerned that some of the [oil and gas] companies are forging ahead with fossil fuel extraction and burning … and proposing ways to mitigate them with technologies that have just not been tested and proved."

The Senate Inquiry recommended the fast tracking of the Albanese Government's promised Water Trigger for fracking projects and proper implementation of NT Fracking Inquiry recommendations to offset lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.

The recommendations also put an end to the NT Fyles Government’s attempts to obfuscate the true purpose of the Middle Arm development, noting “a future liquified natural gas and petrochemical plant in the area would likely source feedstock from the Beetaloo Basin”.

Further, economists have pointed out any fracked gas slated to 'ease the east coast of Australia shortfall' will come years after it is needed and years after 'green' energy sources will have filled that gap, and as Australia has allowed the export of the bulk of its gas, a simple reversal of that allowable policy right now will fill any 'gap' while fossil fuels, such as fracked gas, are phased out.

Community groups have accused the Northern Territory Government of lying to the public and breaking its promise to implement all recommendations of the NT Fracking Inquiry before giving the go ahead for fracking production in the Beetaloo sub-basin.

On Wednesday May 3rd the Fyles Government released the final implementation report into fracking in the Territory, paving the way for potentially thousands of gaswells, high pressure pipelines, wastewater treatment plants, and access roads to be built across the Territory’s interior.

Despite Chief Minister Fyles and Mining Minister Manison claiming all 135 recommendations were now in place, a letter to the government from Independent Officer Dr David Ritchie, who was a member of the original Fracking Inquiry panel, highlights serious outstanding issues. 

Dr Sam Phelan, the Katherine region coordinator of Protect Big Rivers said, “Dr David Richie’s letter exposes how, despite Natasha Fyles making claims to the contrary, the NT Government has fundamentally not implemented all 135 recommendations of Fracking Inquiry.”

The letter finds: 

"Despite the Commonwealth agreeing to “work with the Territory to support its implementation of recommendation 9.8 using available technology and policies”, there has been no progress on the crux of this recommendation, that is: to develop a system that would allow the public to see how a specific reduction in GHG elsewhere in the Australian economy is directly attributed to offset GHG emitted in Australia from production and consumption of shale gas produced in the NT."

The letter was also highly critical of how the government facilitated baseline studies, especially where Aboriginal communities would be impacted, and says Aboriginal communities’ concerns about how groundwater will be impacted have been “ignored”:

“The fact that regional Water Advisory Committees have not yet been appointed for the areas where the onshore gas industry plans to expand their operations has reinforced the perception held by many Aboriginal people in affected communities that the traditional significance of groundwater has been ignored by government and industry.”

Dr Ritchie's final letter also pointed out that in the five years since the Pepper Inquiry context for such proposals had changed:

In order for Cabinet to be satisfied that the risks identified by the Inquiry have been mitigated to an acceptable level, Cabinet may wish to consider two critical issues:

1. Changed Context

What changes in the social, political and/or economic context over the last five years should be considered before Cabinet makes its decision? The question to be considered is: whether there are changes, and if so, are they significant enough to require a review of the risks and reconsideration of what is acceptable?

2. Departures from what was recommended by the Inquiry

Have departures from any of the Inquiry’s recommendations meant that some risks will remain at unacceptable levels?

The Open Letter - which is available for anyone to add their name to, reads:

To the Northern Territory Government

Many scientists and experts called for ban on fracking in the Northern Territory in 2018 and again in 2021 because of the damage it will inflict on our climate.

The science has not changed and in 2023 the situation has only become more urgent.

The impacts of climate change, driven by fossil fuels, are escalating. Our ecosystems and way of life are under threat, and many areas will become uninhabitable if emissions continue to rise. The Northern Territory is particularly vulnerable to these impacts. The International Energy Agency (IEA) , the United Nations and scientists globally, including over 100 prominent Australian scientists and experts have called for an end to new fossil fuel developments.

Despite the clear connection between fossil fuel expansion and climate change, the Northern Territory Government continues to pursue fracking in the Beetaloo Basin. In 2018 it committed to implement all the recommendations of the Scientifi c Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory (Fracking Inquiry), including:

That the NT and Australian governments seek to ensure that there is no net increase in the life cycle GHG emissions emitted in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT.

[Recommendation 9.8]

The Northern Territory Government has failed to keep its commitment.

Allowing large scale gas production in the Beetaloo Basin could add 89 million tonnes of emissions to our atmosphere annually, equivalent to four times the current emissions of the Northern Territory and 18 per cent of Australian emissions which is unacceptable.

We call on the Northern Territory Government to end fracking in the Northern Territory.

Community groups, including those who were not included in the consultation but whose homelands will be impacted, are also now calling on the Federal Albanese Government to step in before it’s too late.

Mudburra Elder Ray Dimakarri Dixon, from Marlinja Community said, “From my community, from myself, and my family, we are worried about our water, and our sacred stories, culture, and songlines that we have. It’s all very important to us. 

“Fracking is going to wreck all that. They’ve already done damage, but we are worried that this will be the big one. Who’s going to tell our stories to the next generation if fracking destroys all this? The government is not going to tell those stories to our mob.”

Hannah Ekin, from Arid Lands Environment Centre, said, “Chief Minister Fyles and the NT Government have repeatedly lied to Territorians - they promised not to approve gas production until all Fracking Inquiry recommendations were implemented, but today they turned their backs on that promise.

“The majority of Territorians have made it clear that we don’t want fracking, but the Fyles Government is backing gas giants and their lobbyists over its own people and rushing forward in a move that puts us all at risk,” she said.

“Fracking the Beetaloo will breach Australia’s climate commitments and put the Territory at risk of severe increases in extreme heat, and worsening droughts, floods, and fires.

“One thing is certain - Territorians won’t back down, and we’ll redouble our efforts to stop fracking and pursue clean energy as the cheapest, safest way forward.”

Key Points:

  • The Beetaloo basin will pollute up to 1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas over its lifetime according to Reputex, equivalent to 2.5 times Australia’s total annual emissions
  • Claims that the NT Government has implemented all recommendations from the Pepper Inquiry, including 9.8, are untrue as there is no requirement or agreement to offset emissions from burning the gas in Australia
  • Independent Oversight Commissioner to NT Fracking Inquiry Dr. David Ritchie has published a letter confirming 9.8 is not implemented.
  • Recommendation 9.8 of the Pepper Inquiry reads, ‘that the NT and Australian governments seek to ensure that there is no net increase in the life cycle GHG emissions emitted in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT.’
  • Even if all domestic emissions were offset in line with recommendation 9.8, these only represent a small fraction of the emissions as most of the gas is for export
  • Despite justifications offered today, AEMO has said clearly that demand for gas on east coast is falling.
  • The minister could not answer questions on jobs today, but an earlier expert report commissioned by the NT Government has found that fracking will not result in many new net jobs
  • The report found “The total employment impact of the Industry development under the GALE scenario is minimal, due to the resulting draw on labour from other industries in the Territory and other parts of Australia.” Pg 127
  • The gas industry is a tiny employer, employing only 0.2% of the Australian workforce

“Deputy Chief Minister Manison started her press conference today claiming to respect science. It is disappointing that she chose to finish it by denigrating 96 scientists, experts and prominent Australians and greenlighting up to 1.4 billion tonnes of fracking emissions in the NT,” said Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser at the Australia Institute.

“It would be practical and level-headed of the Minister to respect the climate science, experts from the NT, warnings from the United Nations and the International Energy Agency all of which say we can not continue to open up new fossil fuel projects without fuelling catastrophic climate change.

“Failing that, the NT Government should follow through on its own 2018 commitment to implement all the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry.

“By posing a false binary between non-existent coal-fired power stations in the NT that no one is planning to build, and this enormous expansion of gas fracking, the Minister is treating all Territorians and scientists like fools.

“The up to 1.4b tonnes of greenhouse gas resulting from fracking in the NT will not only wreck the climate of the NT, but it will wreck the climate for the rest of Australia and have global significance.

“This gas is largely for export. So today’s decision means the NT Government continues to support a handful of largely foreign owned gas companies, who pay little to no tax, fuelling climate change at the expense of the community.”

$57.1b: Record Breaking Fossil Fuel Subsidies Following Climate Election

May 4, 2023

New research shows fossil fuel subsidies over the forward estimates have increased to a record breaking $57.1b, up from the $55.3b forecast in 2022.

As the federal budget approaches, future fossil fuel subsidies will cost 14 times the amount invested in the Australian Disaster Ready Fund, and more than the amount spent on the Australian Army.

Key Points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies over the forward estimates have increased to a record breaking $57.1b, up $1.8b from the $55.3b slated in 2022 budgets.
  • The cost of the Fuel Tax Credit is expected to increase 33% in the next three years, driving future fossil fuel subsidy costs to a record $57.1 billion, 14 times the balance of the Australian Disaster Ready Fund.
  • The Fuel Tax Credit Scheme is forecast to cost $7.8 billion in 2022-23, more than the $7.6 billion spent on the Australian Army.
  • Fossil fuel subsidies cost $11.1 billion in 2022-23 across all state, territory and federal governments, equivalent to $21,143 per minute.
  • Assistance to the coal sector has declined by $270 million, while measures that support the oil and gas industry have increased by $350 million.

“A year on from the ‘climate election’ and we have fossil fuel subsidies breaking records in tandem with the rising global temperatures that put our economy at risk,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at the Australia Institute.

“Australian governments are now planning to spend more on exacerbating climate change through these subsidies than they are on getting ready for climate disasters.

“Some of the most egregious fossil fuel subsidies of the Morrison Government have been stopped, but the Albanese Government has kept key subsidies that are likely to see new fossil fuel projects proceed.

“Putting billions into petrochemical hubs to assist fracking in the NT, building roads specifically for gas companies, building new gas-fired power stations. All these Morrison Government programs are still on the books, are still costing billions and still cooking the climate.

“Exemptions from the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) outlined in the budget benefit oil and gas companies by an estimated $165 million per year, money that could be put to many better uses.

“Major gas projects like Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct and Kurri Kurri Power Station are receiving huge handouts from the Commonwealth Government.

“These subsidies provide a huge opportunity for governments that are looking to cut costs and take climate action.

“It is time to stop funding climate change and start funding the response to it.”

Examples of fossil fuel subsidies in federal, state and territory budgets:


  • $1.9 billion to assist the Middle Arm petrochemical hub in Darwin.
  • $141.1 million over 10 years to assist carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
  • $129 million on upgrading Hunter Valley coal railways to “secure their long-term reliability and productivity.”


  • $13.6 million to develop the Kogan North Gas Fields in the Darling Downs.
  • $45 million to the incident-prone Callide coal-fired power station.
  • $21 million to the Meandu Mine.

Western Australia

  • $250 million in capital spending planned for Collie and Muja coal-fired power stations.
  • $195 million to the Dampier Cargo Wharf Extension project, which will accommodate vessels supporting the offshore oil and gas industry.
  • $35 million per year spent on project facilitation, including projects for gas companies Woodside and APA Group.

Northern Territory

  • $12 million on business case development for the Middle Arm petrochemical precinct, which will also receive $1.9 billion from the Federal Government.
  • Power and Water Corporation’s $2.76 billion in purchase commitments and $680 million in gas transport commitments relating to the Blacktip Gas Project.
  • $5 million per year for a Gas Taskforce to make the NT “a world class hub for gas production”.


  • $69 million for the program that oversees the CarbonNet CCS project, still not operational 12 years after its establishment.
  • Land tax exemptions for coal mining cost $1 million per year.

South Australia

  • $30 million for a hydrogen hub in collaboration with gas companies Santos and Origin.
  • $60 million to upgrade port facilities used by Santos.

New South Wales

  • A $65 million Coal Innovation Fund.
  • $200 million per year on a program titled “Mineral and petroleum industries generating prosperity, safely”

The full report, 'Fossil fuel subsidies in Australia 2023' is available here

Northern Beaches Sustainable Business Solutions Forum: May 17 At Brookvale

WHEN: May 17, 2023 - 6pm - 8:45pm

WHERE: 4 Pines Brewery, Brookvale, 4f 9-13 Winbourne Rd

Please RSVP here

ACF Northern Beaches Community is excited to announce our free Sustainable Business Solutions Forum on Wednesday, 17 May at 4 Pines Brewery, Brookvale.

How do you run a successful business and protect the environment at the same time? Hear from our speakers who will share their journey on how they're doing just that. We want to inspire local businesses to transition to sustainable business practice moving towards a circular economy, connect consumers to local sustainable products and services and create a space for local businesses to connect and share ideas.

You'll hear from a range of speakers who will share their experiences implementing sustainable practices into their business, how they can help others, and what support is available to organisations to reduce their footprint on the planet. 

Our speakers: 

Victor Volpe, CEO & Founder
Chris Volpe, Co-founder
Fox Wardrobes

Yianni Mentis, 
Executive Manager Environment and Climate
Northern Beaches Council

Mary Walker

David Stuart,
Managing Director
Colormaker Industries

Please RSVP here

Permaculture Northern Beaches - Upcoming Events

Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group on Sydney's Northern Beaches working for ecological integrity and assisting you on a pathway to sustainability.

PNB holds monthly permaculture-related public meetings on the last Thursday of each month at the Narrabeen Tramshed Community & Arts Centre, Lakeview Room, 1395A Pittwater Road, Narrabeen. Buses stop directly at the centre and there is also car parking nearby. Doors open at 7:15 pm and meetings take place monthly from February to November. 

7 May - International Permaculture Day 
Join us at New Leaf Nursery Ingleside for PNB workshops and our unique take on International Permaculture Day.
May 7th, the first Sunday in May,  is International Permaculture Day (IPD). A day when all things permaculture are celebrated around the Earth across continents from Brazil to India, to the UK to the USA, and in Australia where permaculture originated.  

On IPD we will celebrate with workshops and activities at the permaculture nursery New Leaf at 224 Powderworks Road Ingleside:

The day will include talks, workshops and interactive sessions as well as the wonderful plants, chickens, and all the staff at New Leaf.
The program so far:
  • Learn about Permaculture design
  • Caring for and raising chickens
  • Native bees and bee hotels
  • Living Skills - soap making
  • AND Live Music!
At: New Leaf Nursery, 224 Powderworks Road, Ingleside

NSW Reconstruction Authority Regulation: Have Your Say

The NSW Reconstruction Authority is inviting public submissions on the Regulatory Impact Statement for the NSW Reconstruction Authority Regulation 2023. The regulation commenced on 3 February 2023 with special certification from the Premier under section 6(1)(b) of the Subordinate Legislation Act 1989.

The objects of the regulation are:
  • to prescribe actions in relation to which the NSW Reconstruction Authority may direct relevant entities
  • to require relevant entities and the NSW Reconstruction Authority to have regard to the State disaster mitigation plan and any relevant disaster adaptation plan in exercising prescribed functions
  • to prescribe exceptional circumstances in which the Minister may authorise the undertaking of development without consent or assessment under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • to provide for the determination and payment of fees under the NSW Reconstruction Authority Act 2022launch.
The Regulatory Impact Statement should be read in conjunction with the regulation, which is available on the NSW legislation website.

A copy of the Regulatory Impact Statement is available on this page or on the NSW Reconstruction Authority website.

Have your say by Monday 15 May 2023.

Australian Bass And Estuary Perch Closure Commences 1 May

April 27, 2023

Recreational fishers are reminded that the annual fishing closure for Australian Bass and Estuary Perch in all coastal rivers and estuaries in NSW will commence on Monday 1 May 2023.

NSW Department Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Deputy Director General, Sean Sloan said the zero-bag limit over this four-month period helps protect the native fish species while they spawn over the winter period.

“During winter, these popular native sportfish species form large groups and migrate to parts of estuaries with the right salinity to trigger spawning,” Mr Sloan said.

“It is important that fishers respect this closure from 1 May through to 31 August, as the spawning period is key for the survival of these iconic species.

“This closure protects the fish during this spawning period to ensure they can remain a popular catch with recreational fishers for many generations to come.

“Australian Bass and Estuary Perch are a commercially protected species and as such commercial fishers are prohibited from retaining or selling Australian Bass and Estuary Perch.”

Mr Sloan said that the zero-bag limit does not apply to Australian Bass and Estuary Perch caught in freshwater dams or in rivers above impoundments, as the fish do not breed in these areas.

“All fish in freshwater impoundments, like Glenbawn Dam and Glennies Creek Dam in the Hunter Valley, Brogo Dam near Bega and Clarrie Hall and Toonumbar Dams in the northeast, are stocked fisheries, meaning we physically replace fish stocks annually, with fingerlings bred in our hatcheries, therefore anglers may continue to fish for these species in these waters all year round,” Mr Sloan said.

“However, any Australian Bass or Estuary Perch caught in estuaries and in rivers below dams during the closure must be returned to the water immediately with the least possible harm to the fish.

“The zero-bag limit for these species does not close any waters to fishing and does not affect anglers fishing for other estuarine species, such as bream or flathead during the colder months.

“Our DPI Fisheries Officers will be out in full force during this time to ensure that these rules are being followed."

If any suspected illegal activity is witnessed, the public are urged to contact the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536 or via the online report form here.

For more information regarding the annual closure, visit the DPI website.

Bristlebirds Bolstered By Release Of Captive-Bred Birds

May 5, 2023

The northern-most population of one of Australia’s rarest birds has been bolstered by the release of 6 captive-bred eastern bristlebirds into the wild within the NSW Border Ranges area. This is a huge milestone for this conservation program, with breeding and research more than 18 years in the making.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment Senior Threatened Species Officer Kelly Roche said eastern bristlebirds were once a more common sight from Queensland to Victoria, but today fewer than 2,500 birds are left in the wild.

“The remaining birds are separated into 4 geographically isolated populations, with our northern population, which spans northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, made up of less than 40 birds,” said Ms Roche. 

“Small, isolated populations like this one suffer low genetic diversity, which compromises the ability of the species to breed. This makes the birds more vulnerable to threats such as wildfire, habitat loss, disease and climate change,” said Ms Roche. 

Thanks to a partnership with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, 6 of these critically endangered birds were captive-bred using a cutting-edge conservation technique known as ‘genetic rescue’ in a bid to turn the tide on eastern bristlebird extinction. 

“By introducing breeding individuals from larger populations into the northern population, we can increase genetic diversity and improve the overall resilience of the species,” said Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s bird supervisor, Allison Beutel.

“After a health check at Currumbin, and a ride in a temperature-controlled vehicle to the habitat area, the birds spent a few days in ‘soft-release’ tents, which we’d kitted out with tussock grass and perching logs.

“When the time was right, we opened the zips, and the birds were free to move out into the wild habitat. 

“The 6 released birds are so far doing really well and have been exploring their new home. We’ve observed some of the birds foraging and interacting with other wild birds,” said Ms Beutel. 

The released birds were monitored via radio telemetry for 30 days to better understand how the individuals are faring in the wild. Longer term, they will be monitored as part of the annual census to understand the wild populations’ status and how it is responding to ongoing habitat restoration.

“The end goal is to see resilient populations of healthy eastern bristlebird, able to sustain population growth in the wild,” said Ms Roche. 

The release was coordinated by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, in partnership with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and private landholders. 

The Saving Our Species program is also delivering habitat management actions as part of the eastern bristlebird recovery program, including prescribed fire to restore grassy understorey habitat, weed and feral animal control, and working with landholders to promote habitat protection and management.

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

Report Fox Sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

Weed Of The Season: Cassia - Please Pull Out And Save Our Bush

Flowering now, Cassia (Senna pendula). Also known as Senna and Arsenic Bush. Originating in South American, Cassia is a perennial sprawling multi-stemmed shrub or tree up to 5m tall. 

This weed replaces native vegetation and establishes in a wide range of native plant communities, including coastal heath and scrubland, hind dunes and riparian corridors. The large seed pods are eaten by birds and other animals. You may be seeing this bright burst of yellow everywhere as it is currently flowering - please pull out and get rid of if you have in your garden.

seed pods

New Marine Wildlife Rescue Group On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

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

Record low Antarctic sea ice is another alarming sign the ocean’s role as climate regulator is changing

Getty Images
Craig StevensNational Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

A changing climate is upon us, with more frequent land and marine heatwaves, forest fires, atmospheric rivers and floods. For some, it is the backdrop to day-to-day life, but for a growing number of people it is a life-changing reality.

It is now more remarkable when a year is not the hottest since our species began to develop civilisations.

Whenever we experience extreme climate events, it can be hard to engage with the concept that they are minor blips in the planetary experiment we are conducting. But the main act is taking place elsewhere in the oceans, which soak up more than 90% of the excess heat energy.

We are winding up a clockwork spring without knowing exactly when, how fast and how it will unspool. Ocean heating is not so much a canary in a coal mine but a thrashing shark we’ve inadvertently (at least initially) hauled up into our fishing boat.

A Bonfire Of Records

A drop in the area covered by sea ice, both in the Arctic and more recently also in Antarctica, is one of the latest record-breaking changes. These floating expanses of frozen seawater are central to how our world works. They regulate how much light our planet reflects, help ventilate the oceans, and host important ecosystems in the form of algal meadows on their underside.

But now, due to the warming of the ocean, we have the lowest sea ice area ever recorded.

Ocean scientists are not used to thinking of rapid change, but the trajectory of the global average temperature on the surface of the ocean has now entered uncharted territory – and fast.

This graphs shows global ocean surface temperatures, with the 2023 track at the top.
This graph shows global ocean surface temperatures, with the 2023 track at the top. climatereanalyzer.orgCC BY-ND

We know about the scale of this thanks to satellite technology that can sense small changes in temperature at the ocean surface.

These surface data are just that: the temperature of the very skin of the ocean. To get a sense of warming in the deeper ocean, we use ship-based measurements and a fleet of underwater robots known as Argo.

A ship deploys instruments to measure temperature just below the ocean surface.
What satellites measure can differ from temperatures just below the surface or in the deeper ocean. Author providedCC BY-ND

The Global Ocean Heat Transport

The deep ocean is clearly changing. This is because polar sea ice acts as a connector between the atmosphere, the surface of the ocean and deeper waters. With less sea ice, there is less cold, salty, oxygenated water sinking to the deep ocean.

These freezing coastal waters of Antarctica are a crucial engine room for global currents that convey energy around the planet – and this ocean transport mechanism is now changing.

One of the unknowns of ocean warming is how the oceans will adjust and store all the heat. Heating the ocean surface makes the upper reaches more stable. This in turn changes how the upper ocean absorbs carbon dioxide.

The difficulty for researchers determining how best to respond is that the processes that move and mix this heat operate over very small scales. It is beyond even our most powerful climate simulators to model exactly how the heat is spread, making predictions less certain.

Even if our models could work at very big and very small scales at the same time, they would have few data for validation. This is because very little of the ocean’s mixing has been observed directly.

While we can predict some of this mixing, the ocean is full of surprises. Recently, the Drake Passage has been shown to be even more of a mixing hotspot than previously thought.

An ocean turbulence sensor being deployed in rough conditions.
An ocean turbulence sensor being deployed in rough conditions. Author providedCC BY-ND

A Warming Pacific

A map showing surface temperatures around Aotearoa for May 1, 2023, with stippled areas marking marine heatwaves.
Surface temperatures around Aotearoa NEW Zealand for May 1, 2023. The stippled areas mark marine heatwave conditions. Ben Noll/NIWA/NOAA

Despite the connected ocean, the individual basins have their own characteristics and contributions to climate. Aotearoa New Zealand sits in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, which covers about a third of the globe’s surface.

The Pacific is so large it has its own internal cycles, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). We have to disentangle these to understand long-term changes.

While El Niño conditions can bring marine heatwaves to some areas of the Pacific, the oceans around Aotearoa New Zealand, especially to the south, are already experiencing nearly constant marine heatwaves.

The scale of the oceanic contribution to storing heat means any small change to how this has operated over the past millennia may have very large impacts. It is impossible to overstate the urgency with which we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Technologies that can capture already emitted carbon dioxide have many proponents, but they must not come at the expense of efforts to turn off emission sources. Without removing the drivers of emissions, these stop-gap measures will only delay the inevitable. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it in its latest report:

There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.The Conversation

Craig Stevens, Professor in Ocean Physics, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

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

Humanity’s tipping point? How the Queen’s death stole a climate warning’s thunder

Bernhard Staehli, Shutterstock
Darren RayUniversity of Adelaide

Think back to September last year. What happened early that month? What news shook the world and reverberated for weeks, if not months?

That’s a question I’ve been asking friends and colleagues lately.

On September 8, 2022, at 6.30pm in Britain, Buckingham Palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The news broke just 30 minutes before the press embargo lifted on a major review of climate change tipping points in the journal Science.

The paper in Science was truly earth-shattering, as it heralded changes that could threaten the future of civil society on this planet. But it was the other news that captured the world’s attention.

So, in case you missed it, I’d like to alert you to this important paper by British climate researcher David Armstrong MᶜKay and colleagues.

Climate Tipping Points: The Point of No Return? A Quick Guide.

Grappling With Tipping Points

The question of when global warming might push elements of the climate system past points of no return has come into focus over last the decade or so. And tipping points once thought to be far off in the distance have come into sharp relief.

The research examines major features of the global climate system, such as ice sheets, glaciers, rainforests and coral reefs. It asks when melting of ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica would become irreversible, ultimately contributing many metres to sea level. Or when thawing of frozen ground in the Arctic might start producing so much methane and carbon dioxide (CO₂) that it blows the global emissions budget.

Amazonian forest die-back is another major part of the Earth’s climate system. Global heating and regional reductions in rainfall could cause trees to die, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases. Fewer trees ultimately means less rainfall for those that remain, creating a vicious cycle.

The pivotal paper in Science reviewed more than 220 papers published since 2008 to estimate what level of global temperature rise (relative to pre-industrial levels) would trigger each of the global and regional climate tipping points.

A bar chart from the original paper in Science showing the likely warming threshold for various tipping points
Global warming threshold estimates for climate tipping elements, ranging from the minimum in yellow where tipping is possible, through to maximum in dark red where tipping is very likely, central dotted line is the best estimate. Compare to the Paris Agreement range of 1.5℃ to <2℃ (green horizontal bar). Future projections are shown in more detail in (B) along with estimated 21st century warming trajectories. In (C), the number of thresholds potentially passed in the coming decades (depending on warming trajectory) is shown per decade (bars) and cumulatively (lines). Reprinted with permission from David I. Armstrong McKay et al., Science 377:eabn7950 (2022). (

The world has already warmed 1.1℃ (see the horizontal line “current warming” in the chart above). The 1.5℃ and 2℃ lines represent the Paris Agreement on climate change targets agreed to internationally in 2016.

Once initiated, irreversible melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would add about 5m to global sea level. Disturbingly, the threshold for this tipping point may have already been crossed. If not, it is “very likely” to be crossed at 2℃.

Ice sheets in West Antarctica contain about another 3.5m of sea level rise, and again, irreversible melting is likely to begin at around 2℃.

So, that’s about 5m from Greenland and another 3.5m from West Antarctica. Add thermal expansion from warming oceans, and mountain glacier melt, and we have more than 10m of sea level rise to contend with.

While that will unfold over many centuries, it will be irreversible and inexorable. It means children born today will likely see sea levels rise by well over 1m early in the 22nd century. Longer-term, these changes will shape the planet for the next 150,000 years or so, until the next ice age.

Consider how 10m of sea level rise might change the map at ClimateCentral.

Much of the world’s tropical coral reefs will likely die at 1.5℃ to 2℃ of warming. And thawing of Arctic permafrost would start releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases, equal to about 10% of human emissions. That would likely push global temperature up by another 0.5℃ to 1.0℃ (on top of 2℃).

Thankfully, logging and wildfire aside, the Amazon forest looks relatively safe until about 3℃ of warming. But the combination of some of those other tipping points might get us there, setting off a further cascade of tipping points.

Can We Avoid Disaster?

After decades of delay, our chances of keeping global warming below 1.5℃ are pretty slim. But, clearly, this research shows that limiting warming to 2℃ will not keep us safe.

The focus on “net zero by 2050” has in fact done us a disservice. If we let emissions remain anywhere near current levels for much longer, by 2030 we will have used up the carbon emissions budget that would allow us to stay near 1.5℃.

We need to act quickly and at least halve current emissions by 2030 on the way to net zero before 2050. This research shows that failing to do so will trigger 10m or more of sea level rise. That will gradually displace hundreds of millions of people and many of the world’s major cities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has begun talking about the possible failure of civil society in response to increasing extreme events. We are seeing early indicators of this in Australia, with people living in tents for years after floods made worse by climate change. They face decisions about whether or not to rebuild on that land.

How long will there be money available to provide disaster relief in Australia and around the world? Where will hundreds of millions of people go after being displaced by extreme wet bulb temperature, crop failure, fire, flooding and sea level rise?

How Did We Get Here?

Arriving at this juncture in human history feels like a massive failure. A failure of leadership, of decision making, of information dissemination through media, and perhaps our priorities, has left us in this extremely challenging position.

Many factors have conspired against us. These include fossil fuel companies funding misinformation and climate-related “green washing” – exaggerating or misrepresenting their climate credentials. Elected leaders being influenced by donations from the fossil fuel industry. Earlier low-resolution climate models failing to capture local scale processes, and therefore underestimating climate system sensitivity. Poor media communication of the urgency of the issue. And throw in some good old human “optimism bias” towards positive outcomes.

As a climate scientist, with almost 18 years experience in operations at the Bureau of Meteorology and more recently, in my work on high resolution climate projections for state government, I deeply know the climate grief so eloquently communicated by climate researcher Joelle Gergis.

In response, I have had to draw on tools such as meditation and mindfulness to deal with the awareness the science presents including the likely future suffering of so many. It is challenging to see where we are heading and – with what is at stake – to see life going on as if everything is fine.

A Turning Point

Future events are going to challenge us in many ways. Humanity faces a choice between retreat into fear and war, or cooperation and collaboration. There is much already happening and a lot we can do, as individuals and communities. We can restore landscapes, reward sustainability, create a circular economy and electrify everything. But we need to act fast.

So, as King Charles III’s coronation plays across our TV screens and media feeds in coming days, keep the incredibly urgent climate crisis in mind. Ask our leaders to step up. Do not be distracted, as future generations will judge us for the choices we make today.The Conversation

Darren Ray, PhD candidate | Paleoclimate, University of Adelaide

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

Let’s protect nature, but not merely for the sake of humans

kasakphoto / shutterstock
Simon P. JamesDurham University

Environmentalists rightly urge us to consider the long-term effects of our actions. Plastic bags, they point out, can take hundreds of years to decompose, while radioactive waste can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. It could take the Earth’s biosphere several million years to recover from human-caused mass extinctions.

As an environmental philosopher, I spend a lot of time thinking about facts such as these. This can be depressing. Still, looking very far into the future offers a glimmer of hope. After all, our waste will eventually decompose. The ecosystems we have degraded will eventually recover.

To be sure, like all things, planet Earth will eventually meet its end, engulfed, perhaps, by the expanding sun. However, as comedian George Carlin once said, it will nonetheless “be here for a long, long, long time after we’re gone and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ‘cause that’s what it does”.

Only a few people, perhaps including Donald Trump, claim that this provides a reason to refrain from preserving biodiversity, reducing pollution or taking any other sort of environmental action. However, some think it tells us why such action is needed.

Earth from space
The planet will recover….eventually. 19 STUDIO/Shutterstock

For them, the fact that the planet will eventually recover tells us that when environmental action is needed, it’s needed not for the planet’s sake, but for ours – for the sake of us humans.

Here’s how Peter Kareiva, former chief scientist and vice president of NGO The Nature Conservancy, expresses the point:

Almost no matter what we do, life will persist on Mother Earth – she is one tough lady. Even if there is a massive extinction, slowly the number of species will recover. So it is not Mother Earth that we should worry about. It is the quality of our own lives.

Satya Tripathi, secretary-general of the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet, agrees:

We need to look at ourselves, be very selfish, stop making high-sounding claims that we are helping Mother Nature and the planet, [and] start telling that we are helping ourselves […] The planet does not need saving. Mother Nature was here billions of years ago, and she will be here after us.

The writer Frederick Lim takes a similar line:

The planet does not need saving. Mitigating the impacts of climate change isn’t for Earth’s sake. Rather, it is for our own survival […] Even if we choose to neglect the climate emergency, and cause the Earth’s environment to be inhabitable, planet Earth would still survive.

The argument implied by these claims runs as follows. Take some immense and near-invulnerable entity such as planet Earth or Mother Nature. That entity will eventually recover from whatever damage we humans do to it.

So we don’t need to engage in environmental action for the sake of anything as grand as planet Earth or Mother Nature. We need to do it for ourselves – for the sake of us humans.

This is an argument for “anthropocentrism”: the view that the non-human world only has value because it serves human interests. There are several things wrong with it. Here, though, let’s consider just one.

The anthropocentrists seem to assume that people can only ever take environmental action either for the sake of some gigantic entity such as planet Earth, or for the sake of human beings. So if we reject the first option, we must accept the second.

That, however, is a false dilemma. Other options are available.

For The Sake Of The Animals

Take Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in Sumatra, for example. The anthropocentrists quoted above would, I expect, acknowledge that that huge area of highly biodiverse tropical forest should continue to be protected.

But they would add that it needn’t be protected for the sake of the planet. Even if the forest is levelled and transformed into coffee plantations, the planet will be just fine. Ditto Mother Nature.

They would add that Bukit Barisan Selatan should be protected for the sake of human beings – because it supplies certain people with vital material goods, for instance, or because it has cultural value for them.

A furry animal
‘Dishevelled and bearlike’: the binturong, or bearcat, is actually related to civets and mongooses. MyImages - Micha / Shutterstock

But that is not the whole story. There is a third option – a third reason why the area should be protected.

Consider the non-human animals for whom the place is home. Consider the dishevelled, bear-like binturong, or the slow loris, a fluffy, owl-eyed mammal with a toxic bite. Or take the Sumatran rhino, the Sumatran tiger or the Sumatran elephant. These animals are not just parts of planet Earth, Mother Nature or whatever. They are conscious individuals.

And, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum and others have argued, they both deserve to flourish and need places in which they can flourish. So, although the forest really should be protected for our sakes, it should be protected for theirs too.

The anthropocentrists are, therefore, partly right. The planet doesn’t need saving. But acknowledging this does not mean we must be “very selfish” and devote all our efforts to saving ourselves. There are other reasons to protect the strange, wonderful and partly non-human world we inhabit.The Conversation

Simon P. James, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Durham University

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

How to make your next holiday better for the environment

Brendan CanavanUniversity of Nottingham

Being an environmentally friendly tourist can be challenging. Tourism is an industry that brings many negative environmental impacts – our pleasure often comes at the expense of local habitats or wildlife.

Maya Bay on Thailand’s uninhabited Phi Phi Leh island became famous as the location of the 2000 Hollywood movie The Beach. But this led to rapid growth in visitors to the bay – as many as 8,000 a day at its peak – and put enormous strain on the bay’s natural habitats.

In 2018, the bay was closed to tourists for four years to let its coral reefs and wildlife recover.

But tourism can also be an inspiring way to connect with oneself, with others and with new places. As tourists, we can learn, share and contribute to positive environmental practices.

Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Owning houseplants can boost your mental health – here’s how to pick the right one

Five must-read novels on the environment and climate crisis

Are e-bikes ruining mountain biking?

As a tourist, you also have influence. The money you spend, the social interactions you have and the resources you consume all help to shape an area.

So here are four pieces of advice for making your next holiday better for the environment.

Spend Locally

We’ve all heard variations on the mantra “take only memories, leave only footprints”. This message of less consumption and lower impact is a good ethos for environmentally sensitive tourism. The first thing to do is think about how you can leave more positive footprints behind.

An excellent way to make the most of your economic footprint is to stay and shop in independent businesses. These businesses tend to pay local taxes and are owned by and employ local people. More of the money you spend stays in the immediate area as a result.

Where tourist money directly benefits local people and businesses, their support for conservation is often encouraged. Tourists visiting rhino sanctuaries in Botswana, for example, bring income and support jobs. In 2010, the country’s Khama Rhino Sanctuary employed 26 permanent staff and many more casual labourers.

This economic security can, in turn, prompt local people to appreciate the importance of protecting vulnerable animal species like rhinos. Separate research on people living around Kenya’s Maasai Mara nature reserve found that people whose livelihoods were dependent on tourism were more likely to support efforts to conserve local wildlife.

Two white rhinos drinking from a pond.
Two white rhinos at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana. Al Carrera/Shutterstock

Tread Lightly

Tourism creates waste and uses up resources. Treading carefully will minimise the environmental impact you have on your holiday destination.

A simple way to lower your environmental footprint is to use fewer resources at every stage of your holiday. A single tourist uses 300 litres of water in their holiday accommodation on average each night. Reusing towels, flushing the toilet less and shortening your shower time can all help to reduce demand for water resources.

Thinking about the footprints you leave as a tourist is a useful mindset. You may even become more aware of the positive legacy you can leave behind.

Learn about the local area and the environmental issues that matter there. If habitat loss is a problem, contribute to local organisations that support conservation. Organisations like the National Trust even offer holidays in the UK that help to fund their work.

Place Matters

Tourism shifts you away from the familiar and gives you space for self-reflection. Research has found that people have been inspired by travel to make life changes such as relocating or shifting career.

Many keen rock climbers, for instance, adopt a minimalist and mobile lifestyleOne study on climbers’ lifestyles in the US showed that the challenges of life on the road, gatherings at campgrounds and the considerable amount of time spent in nature can be enriching.

Rock climbers’ lifestyles are inspired by and connected to natural settings. And many alternative types of tourism are too. These tourists can become powerful advocates for the protection of the places they care deeply about. Surf tourists, for example, have driven various campaigns against the discharge of sewage into UK bathing waters.

You and those you travel with can be similar cheerleaders for the places you care about. Join organisations fighting for their conservation, contribute to their sustainable development and share your appreciation of these places with others.

Stay Curious

A final thing you can do as a tourist is to keep exploring. It can be tempting to stay in a tourist bubble and not leave the confines of your resort or stick with familiar travel groups and activities.

Cruises are a classic example of bubble tourism. The places visited do not really matter; the floating hotel is the main attraction.

But cruise tourism rarely benefits local populations and brings significant negative environmental impacts. In the Trujillo Bay area of Honduras, for example, increases in garbage and sewage have been reported since commercial cruise tourism began operating in the area in 2014.

A beach full of tourists from the cruise ship moored nearby.
A cruise ship moored near Mahogany Bay beach, Honduras. Ramunas Bruzas/Shutterstock

Similar concerns have prompted calls to restrict cruise tourism in popular European destinations like VeniceMarseille and Barcelona. In 2022, more than 50,000 people signed a petition to ban cruise ships from Marseille.

Going beyond familiar or fashionable tourist bubbles can help you avoid such negative associations. Short-haul city breaks are a more environmentally friendly option.

Travellers to these destinations are more likely to use means of transportation that are associated with less CO₂ emissions than long-haul travel, such as trains or coaches. And in urban areas, their activities are likely to take place in a concentrated geographical area.

Thinking about the footprints you leave and the memories you take can help you to become a more environmentally aware tourist. Leave positive imprints behind, tread carefully, put yourself out there and keep exploring.

This is a mantra to adopt and share with your travel groups to get the most out of your holiday experiences while simultaneously reducing your impact on the planet.The Conversation

Brendan Canavan, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Nottingham

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

Two trillion tonnes of greenhouse gases, 25 billion nukes of heat: are we pushing Earth out of the Goldilocks zone?

Andrew KingThe University of Melbourne and Steven SherwoodUNSW Sydney

Since the 18th century, humans have been taking fossil fuels out of their safe storage deep underground and burning them to generate electricity or power machinery.

We’ve now converted coal, oil and gas into more than two trillion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and added them to the atmosphere.

The current result? The average temperature at the planet’s surface is about 1.2℃ hotter than in the pre-industrial era. That’s because adding new carbon to the world’s natural carbon cycle has caused an imbalance in the amount of energy entering and leaving the Earth system.

To warm the entire planet takes an extraordinary amount of extra energy. Recent research shows we’ve added the energy of 25 billion nuclear bombs to the Earth system in just the last 50 years.

Billions of nuclear bombs to produce 1.2℃ of heating – so what? It seems small, considering how much temperature varies on a daily basis. (The world’s average surface temperature in the 20th century was 13.9℃.)

But almost all of this energy to date has been taken up by the oceans. It’s no wonder we’re seeing rapid warming in our oceans.

earth from space
Life on Earth is possible because we’re in a sweet spot – not too hot, not too cold. NASACC BY

The Goldilocks Zone

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. It gets hot, at an average temperature of 167℃. But it has no atmosphere. That’s why the second planet, Venus, is the hottest in the solar system, at an average of 464℃. That’s due to an atmosphere much thicker than Earth’s, dense in carbon dioxide. Venus might once have had liquid oceans. But then a runaway greenhouse effect took place, trapping truly enormous quantities of heat.

One reason we’re alive is that our planet orbits in the Goldilocks zone, just the right distance from the Sun to be not too hot and not too cold. Little of the Earth’s internal heat gets through to the cold crust where we live. That makes us dependent on another source of heat – the Sun.

When the Sun’s light and heat hits Earth, some is absorbed at the surface and some is reflected back out into space. We see some of the energy emitted by the Sun because the Sun is hot and hotter objects emit radiation in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Because Earth is much cooler than the Sun, the radiation it emits is invisible, at long infrared wavelengths. Much of this energy goes out into space – but not all. Some gases in our atmosphere are very effective at absorbing energy at the wavelengths Earth emits at. These greenhouse gases occur naturally in Earth’s atmosphere, and keep the planet warm enough to be habitable. That’s another Goldilocks zone.

Earth energy budget
Incoming radiation from the sun is reflected or absorbed by Earth. There is a net imbalance where more energy is absorbed than emitted by the planet and this causes warming. NASACC BY

And then there’s a third Goldilocks zone: recent history. All of human civilisation has emerged in the unusually mild 10,000 years after the last ice age, when the climate has been not too hot and not too cold across much of the world.

But now, we are at very real risk of pushing ourselves outside of the comfortable climatic conditions which allowed humans to expand, farm, build cities and create.

The energy dense fuels which made industrial civilisation possible come with an enormous sting in the tail. Burn now, pay later. Now the bill has become apparent.

How do we know this is real? Satellites measure the rate at which Earth’s surface radiates heat. At any one moment, thousands of Argo robotic floats dot our oceans. They spend almost all of their lives underwater, measuring heat, and surface to transmit data. And we can measure sea level with tide levels and satellites. We can cross-check the measurements between all three approaches.

Climate Change: More Energy Comes In Than Goes Out

Greenhouse gases are potent. You only need small concentrations to get a big effect.

We’ve already boosted the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 50%, and added considerable volumes of methane and nitrous oxide as well. This is pushing our life-sustaining greenhouse effect out of balance.

A recent study suggests the energy imbalance is equivalent to trapping roughly 380 zettajoules of extra heat from 1971–2020. (The period between 1971 and the present accounts for about 60% of all emissions).

One zettajoule is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules – a very big number!

Little Boy, the nuclear bomb which destroyed Hiroshima, produced energy estimated at 15,000,000,000,000 joules. This means the effect of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions in that 50-year period to 2020 is about 25 billion times the energy emitted by the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

If We’ve Trapped So Much Extra Heat, Where Is It?

To date, almost every joule of extra energy – about 90% – has gone into our oceans, particularly the top kilometre of water. Water is an excellent heat sink. It takes a lot of energy to heat it, but heat it we have. Hotter oceans are a major contributor to coral bleaching and sea level rise.

sea surface temperature
Where’s the heat? In our oceans. This sea surface temperature map shows the temperature anomalies above or below the long term average at 30th April 2023. NOAACC BY

It takes a long time to get this much heat into the oceans, and once it is there it doesn’t disappear. Reversing global warming entirely may not be feasible. Just to stop temperatures going any higher means correcting the imbalance and bringing CO2 levels down towards the pre-industrial level of 280ppm.

If we can reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, we will most likely stop further global warming and carbon dioxide concentrations will slowly start to drop.

Realistically, this means rapid, large-scale reduction of emissions and deployment of carbon capture to compensate for the emissions we can’t eliminate.

To go further and cool the planet back down towards a pre-industrial climate would require net-negative emissions, meaning we would have to draw even more carbon back out of the atmosphere than any lingering emissions.

Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are at near-record highs. But clean energy production is accelerating. This year might be the first time emissions from power begin to fall.

We’re in a race, and the stakes are as high as they could possibly be – ensuring a liveable climate for our children and for nature. The Conversation

Andrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of Melbourne and Steven Sherwood, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Sydney

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

Kicking the gas can down the road: why a gas price cap is the worst way to protect energy consumers.

Gareth Fuller/PA via AP
Ariel LiebmanMonash University

The federal government’s plan to extend the gas price cap is not surprising, given fundamental market issues remain.

For as long as the war in Ukraine continues, Australian gas will attract premium prices overseas. So the “temporary” $12 per gigajoule cap on wholesale domestic prices – intended to protect local energy users – will no longer be lifted in December, but will stay for a further 18 months at least.

This is just kicking the can down the road, rather than developing a coherent energy policy.

A price cap is the worst of all credible options to establish market or price stability. It creates perverse incentives to continue with inefficient industry and residential energy use practices. It also delays progress towards emissions reduction and transition to renewable energy.

The optimal regulation of natural gas markets has been well studied and applied internationally, and state and commonwealth governments would be well advised to learn from such expertise. The government should, at the very least, consult a range of experts and develop a variety of policy options.

These options should include a gas reservation policy and a new tax on excess gas industry profits that would be shared among consumers.

In tandem, the government should also institute a first principles review of all energy market frameworks, as this issue (among others) shows the fundamental assumptions underpinning current energy market frameworks no longer hold.

Introducing A Code Of Conduct

The extension of the gas price cap is just one part of the Albanese government’s proposed mandatory code of conduct (gas code).

It’s worth noting the consultation paper, released on April 26 states the gas code “will ensure domestic prices are reasonable by establishing a price anchor through:

  • a price cap, initially set at $12/GJ
  • conditional exemptions from the price cap for producers on the basis of satisfactory voluntary enforceable supply commitments or being a small producer who exclusively supplies the domestic market.

So large gas producers can apply to exceed the price cap. That might explain the term "price anchor”.

The draft code has already been subject to consultation with gas producers and big industrial users over recent months. Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen told the ABC this was about striking “the right balance”.

Large gas producers are being asked to make submissions on the supply and price commitments they would be prepared to make in the context of the proposed exemption framework by May 8.

Submissions on the second and final round of consultation will close on May 12.

Wholesale electricity prices have come down since caps on coal and gas price caps were introduced. (The wholesale electricity price is heavily influenced by the gas price).

But the wholesale gas price for the first quarter of this year is still the highest Q1 price on record. The average price across all Australian Energy Market Operator markets in March was $9.43/GJ, the lowest since January 2022 which was $8.81/GJ. The quarterly average price across all AEMO markets was $11.86/GJ, compared to $9.93/GJ in Q1 2022.

Retail prices for electricity and gas continue to increase.

A Fragile Framework In Need Of Repair

The relatively minor reduction in gas supply, due to sanctions on Russia, exposed the delicate balance of supply and demand, and the fragility of the global fossil energy system. In the long term, the solution is clear: move to renewables that are not subject to short term supply-demand shocks, and are now cheaper than coal and gas.

The switch to renewables also has another significant benefit – decentralising the production of electricity from concentrated sources of fossil fuels. This can start to address some of the key sources of geopolitical instability related to oil and gas in the middle east, Russia and similar sources.

However, in the short term, the Australian government must curb the worst excesses of the unfettered free market in natural gas and retail electricity. We must give Australians short term relief by decoupling the Australian natural gas market from global markets for a limited period.

The price cap is a poor attempt to do this, but the only sure way is a domestic reservation policy. This would reserve a proportion of gas produced on the east coast for the domestic market.

Western Australia already has one, which mandates 15% of the gas extracted in the state must stay there. That’s why WA gas prices are cheaper. Now the east coast of Australia needs a strong gas reservation policy.

A Double Whammy

Coupling domestic gas and electricity markets to the extremely volatile and constrained international market is not in the national interest.

It is a double whammy, because not only are power prices overinflated, the resulting profits are not taxed appropriately.

We must fix this, properly.The Conversation

Ariel Liebman, Ariel Liebman Director, Monash Energy Institute and Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University

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

An epic global study of moss reveals it is far more vital to Earth’s ecosystems than we knew

Dylan Shaw/Unsplash
David John EldridgeUNSW Sydney and Manuel Delgado-BaquerizoConsejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Mosses are some of the oldest land plants. They are found all over the world, from lush tropical rainforests to the driest deserts, and even the wind-swept hills of Antarctica.

They are everywhere; growing in cracks along roads and pathways, on the trunks of trees, on rocks and buildings, and importantly, on the soil.

Yet despite this ubiquity, we have a relatively poor understanding of how important they are, particularly the types of moss that thrive on soil.

New global research on soil mosses published today in Nature Geoscience reveals they play critical roles in sustaining life on our planet. Without soil mosses, Earth’s ability to produce healthy soils, provide habitat for microbes and fight pathogens would be greatly diminished.

Soil moss with fruiting bodies (capsules). David Eldridge, Author provided.

A Global Survey Of Soil Mosses

The results of the new study indicate we have probably underestimated just how important soil mosses are.

Using data from 123 sites across all continents including Antarctica, we show that the soil beneath mosses has more nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium, and a greater activity of soil enzymes than bare surfaces with no plants.

In fact, mosses affect all major soil functions, increasing carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling and the breakdown of organic matter. These processes are critical for sustaining life on Earth.

Our modelling revealed that soil mosses cover a huge area of the planet, about 9 million square kilometres – equivalent to the area of China. And that’s not counting mosses from boreal forests, which were not included in the study.

The strength of the effect mosses have on soil depends on their growing conditions. They have the strongest effect in natural low productivity environments, such as deserts. They are also more important on sandy and salty soils, and where rainfall is highly variable.

Not unexpectedly, mosses have the strongest effects on soils where vascular plants – those that contain specialised tissues to conduct water and minerals – are sparse.

An Intimate Connection

Mosses lack the plumbing that allows vascular plants to grow tall and pull water from beneath the soil. This keeps them relatively short, and means they develop an intimate connection with the uppermost soil layers.

Mosses are extremely absorbent and can attract airborne dust particles. Some of these particles are incorporated into the soil below. It is not surprising then that they have such a strong effect on soils.

Our modelling shows that, across the globe, mosses store 6.4 gigatonnes more carbon than soils without plant cover.

Losing just 15% of the global cover of soil mosses would be equivalent to global emissions of carbon dioxide from all land use changes over a year, such as clearing and overgrazing.

A forest floor with rich green moss cover seen in the foreground
Without mosses, the world’s ecosystems wouldn’t thrive nearly as well. Eric Prouzet/Unsplash

Not All Mosses Are Equal

We also found some mosses are more effective at promoting healthy soils than others. Long-lived mosses tended to be associated with more carbon and greater control of soil pathogens.

The ability of mosses to provide ecosystem services and support a diverse community of microbes, fungi and invertebrates was strongest in locations with a high cover of mat- and turf-forming mosses such as Sphagnum, which are widely distributed in boreal forests.

Soils are a huge reservoir of soil pathogens, yet the soil beneath mosses had a lower proportion of plant pathogens. Mosses can help to reduce the pathogen load in soils. This ability may have originated when mosses evolved as land plants.

A Special Group In The Desert

A special type of moss flourishes in deserts. They either live hard (perennial mosses) or die young (annual mosses).

Mosses in the family Pottiaceae are uniquely suited to life under dry and inhospitable conditions. Many have specialised structures that allow them to survive when water is scarce. These include boat-shaped leaves with long hairy tips that help to funnel water into the centre of the plant. Some mosses twist around their stem to reduce the area exposed to the sun and conserve moisture.

Long hair points on the leaves of Campylopus sp. David EldridgeAuthor provided

Desert mosses also protect the soil against erosion, influence how much water moves through the upper layers and even alter the survival chances of plant seedlings.

Other mosses have special moisture-absorbing cells (papillae) that swell up and provide them with a moisture reserve when conditions are dry.

Papillae on the leaf of the moss Crossidium davidai. David Eldridge, Author provided

Our global study showed that mat- and turf-forming mosses such as Sphagnum had the strongest positive effects on the diversity of microbes, fungi and invertebrates, and on critical services such as nutrient supply. Predictably, longer-lived mosses supported more soil carbon and had greater control of plant pathogens than short-lived mosses.

Protect The Mosses

Overall, our work shows mosses influence important soil processes and function in the same way vascular plants do. Their effects may not be as strong, but their total cover means mosses are potentially as significant when summed across the whole globe.

But mosses are under increasing threats globally; disturbance by livestock, overharvesting, land clearing and even changing climates are the greatest threats.

We need a greater acknowledgement of the services that soil mosses provide for all life on this planet. This means greater education about their positive benefits, identifying and mitigating the main threats they face, and including them in routine monitoring programs.

Soil mosses are everywhere, but their future is far from secure. They are likely to play increasingly important roles as vascular plants decline under predicted hotter, drier and more variable global climates. The Conversation

David John Eldridge, Professor of Dryland Ecology, UNSW Sydney and Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Ecosystem ecologist, Spanish National Research Council, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

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

Drone seeding and E-seeds sound exciting, but ecosystem restoration needs practical solutions

Simone PedriniAuthor provided
Simone PedriniCurtin UniversityJorge Castro GutiérrezUniversidad de Granada, and Kingsley DixonCurtin University

A drone drops a small wooden projectile with three spiral tails and a seed mounted on the tip. It gently lands on the bare ground and sits there, exposed to the elements, until it rains. Then, the moisture penetrates the wood fibres, and the spiral tails start twisting, slowly pushing the seed into the ground, where it will germinate.

The design of this incredible depth-seeking seed carrier, recently published in Nature, was inspired by the self-burying mechanism of a few plant species, such as those of the genus Erodium.

According to the authors, these seed carriers, also known as E-seeds, can be built in various sizes for different species and dropped by aeroplanes or drones to restore degraded ecosystems.

This bio-inspired engineering marvel has received a vast and well-deserved share of attention and praise.

But, from a restoration practitioner’s point of view, it has logistical issues that can greatly limit its application at scale.

Unproven ‘Game-Changers’

E-seeds are the latest of many technologies presented as restoration “game-changers”.

Numerous private companies have entered the market with revolutionary devices (mostly drones), claiming to restore ecosystems by planting billions of trees. Yet, to date, there is little evidence of their efficacy.

This fascination with shiny technological gadgets might divert scarce resources from practical, on-the-ground solutions that will seriously affect our ability to restore degraded ecosystems globally.

A vast portion of the world’s ecosystem has been damaged or destroyed due to human activities. Global initiatives, such as the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration and the Bonn Challenge, promote international cooperation to restore 350 million hectares by 2030.

For decades, scientists and practitioners have been working on solutions to support and accelerate the recovery of degraded ecosystems.

Most Seeds Fail

Often, the first step for initiating the natural recovery of terrestrial ecosystems is to establish native vegetation. Tree planting is a common approach, but it can be expensive on a large scale. Direct seeding is faster and cheaper, but also riskier.

For a start, seeds need to reach the right place in the soil to germinate and grow.

If seeds are scattered (seed broadcasting) on the soil surface by hand, tractor or drone, they can be blown off by the wind or eaten by animals. Even if they germinate, the seedling can dry up and die. As a result, most seeds will not become a plant.

This is why seed penetration in the soil is the key to improving a seed’s chance of success. Generally, the bigger a seed is, the deeper it can go. This is often achieved using precision seeders, similar to those used in agriculture. These machines open up the soil, deposit the seed at a precise depth, and cover it. The E-seed can achieve a similar result, ideally making seed broadcasting as effective as precision seeding.

Close-up of a tractor with equipment attached that features rows of digging and seed-depositing tools
Precision agricultural seeder used with native species in Western Australia. Simone PedriniAuthor provided

Unfortunately, this approach presents two problems: scalability and logistics. First, it’s unlikely that the multi-step process needed to manufacture E-seeds can be scaled to the many billions of seeds across thousands of species we need to restore entire ecosystems.

Second, the tails of the E-seeds could easily get tangled with each other, either clogging the seed delivery mechanism or being released in clumps. The authors solved this problem by dividing the seeding box into compartments containing a single E-seed. This stopped the seed from clumping but greatly reduced the number of seeds that could be delivered on each drone flight.

This clumping seeds issue is also common when dealing with native species, such as the grasses that inspired the design of the E-seed. A simpler, less technological solution currently used in restoration is to actually remove the tails.

This reduces the seed volume for storage and delivery, and improves the seed flow through seeding equipment. In some cases, the removal of appendages could also improve seed germination.

Such approaches are not as spectacular as E-seeds dropped from drones. Still, in most scenarios, they are the most cost-effective way to reintroduce native vegetation to a degraded site at scale.

Close-up of various brown and yellow seeds, most of them round
Native seed mix of Western Australian species. Kingsley DixonAuthor provided

Effective, Not Flamboyant

Ecological restoration is an incredibly complex activity that goes beyond vegetation establishment.

It must consider the complex and dynamic interactions of organisms and their environment, while accounting for social and economic implications for local communities. Therefore, we must approach ecosystem restoration holistically and not get carried away by the lure of shiny technologies.

Funders with limited appreciation of restoration’s ecological and practical complexities are keen to embrace and invest in charismatic, yet often unproven technologies.

For example, a start-up focused on drone seeding raised a A$200 million investment, double the amount the Australian federal government has dedicated to the environmental restoration fund over four years. But science is yet to demonstrate if drone seeding can work at scale to rebuild Australia’s degraded landscapes and ecosystems.

We should welcome any attempt to improve the success of ecological restoration, and promote the implementation of novel technologies.

But new technologies must prove their worth and practicality. We should focus on the most effective ways to restore native ecosystems, not the most flamboyant.

Correction: this article has been amended to clarify that Erodium plants are not grasses.The Conversation

Simone Pedrini, Lecturer in ecological restoration, Curtin UniversityJorge Castro Gutiérrez, Catedrático de Ecología, Universidad de Granada, and Kingsley Dixon, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Curtin University

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

1 in 4 households struggle to pay power bills. Here are 5 ways to tackle hidden energy poverty

Nicola WillandRMIT UniversityNooshin TorabiRMIT University, and Ralph HorneRMIT University

One in four Australian households are finding it hard to pay their gas and electricity bills. As winter looms, energy price rises will make it even harder. Cold homes and disconnections resulting from energy poverty threaten people’s health and wellbeing.

Income support for welfare recipients and retrofitting homes to make them more thermally efficient – by adding insulation, for example – can ease the burden. And when homes are not too cold or hot, people’s health benefits. This in turn eases pressure on the public health system.

However, many people are missing out on assistance as programs often do not recognise their difficulties. Their energy vulnerability is hidden.

What Forms Does Hidden Energy Poverty Take?

Our newly published study has revealed six aspects of hidden energy vulnerability. These are:

  1. underconsumption – households limit or turn off cooling, heating and/or lights to avoid disconnections

  2. incidental masking – other welfare support, such as rent relief, masks difficulties in paying energy bills

  3. some households disguise energy poverty by using public facilities such as showers or pooling money for bills between families

  4. some people conceal their hardship due to pride or fear of legal consequences, such as losing custody of children if food cannot be refrigerated because the power has been cut off

  5. poor understanding of energy efficiency and the health risks of cold or hot homes adds to the problem

  6. eligibility criteria for energy assistance programs may exclude some vulnerable households. For example, people with income just above the welfare threshold are missing out on energy concessions. Energy retailer hardship programs also ignore people who have voluntarily disconnected due to financial hardship.

5 Ways To Help These Households

Our studies suggest trusted intermediaries such as people working in health, energy and social services can play a vital role in identifying and supporting such households.

First, energy efficiency and hardship initiatives may be integrated into the My Aged Care in-home care system. Energy poverty risk identification, response and referral could be built into the national service’s assessment form. This could leverage existing client screening processes.

The system’s front-line staff could connect at-risk householders with energy counsellors. These counsellors could help people access better energy contracts, concessions, home retrofits and appliance upgrade programs.

A new Commonwealth “energy supplement” could help pay for essential energy-related home modifications. This would help avoid My Aged Care funds being diverted from immediate healthcare needs.

Second, general practitioners and other health professionals could help identify energy vulnerability among patients with medical conditions of concern. They could also provide letters of support emphasising renters’ health-based need for air conditioners or heaters.

Third, energy providers could use household energy data to identify those that seem to be under-consuming or are often disconnected. They could also identify those that are not on “best offer” deals. They could be proactive in checking struggling householders’ eligibility for ongoing energy concessions and one-off debt relief grants offered by states and territories.

Energy providers could also make it easier for social housing providers to ensure concessions for tenants renew automatically.

Fourth, local councils could use their data to identify at-risk householders. They might include those with a disability parking permit, discounted council rates or in arrears, on the social housing waiting list, Meals on Wheels clients and social housing tenants. Maternal and child health nurses and home and community care workers making home visits could call attention to cold or hot homes.

Councils could employ in-house energy counsellors to provide assistance and energy literacy training. Council home maintenance teams could develop bulk-buying, insulation and neighbourhood retrofit programs.

Strategies to reduce vulnerability to energy poverty should be part of municipal public health and wellbeing plans. Under these strategies, net-zero-carbon funds set up by states and local councils to reduce emissions could finance targeted housing retrofits.

We also suggest setting up a central helpline to improve access to energy assistance via local referrals.

Fifth, residential energy-efficiency programs could become more person-centric. For example, we already have Residential Efficiency Scorecard audits to assess the thermal quality of a home. These audits could also explore whether concessions and better energy deals are available to the household.

Building Capacity At All Levels

Capacity-building strategies are needed at all levels – individual, community and government – to overcome the challenges of reducing energy poverty. Current obstacles include the competing priorities of service providers, lack of time and resources, and poor co-ordination between siloed programs and services.

Access to essential energy services should be part of state and local governments’ strategic health plans. Housing, energy and health departments could work together to include housing retrofits in preventive health programs.

A comprehensive approach is needed to overcome hidden energy poverty. It must include public education, integrated services and well-funded energy-efficiency programs. Regulatory reforms and ongoing funding are both needed to improve the availability of energy-efficient, affordable homes for tenants.

Our suggested strategies start with improving the skills and knowledge of trusted intermediaries. Doctors, social workers, housing officers, community nurses and volunteers can play a central role. Using these front-line professionals to help identify and act on energy poverty offers a novel, cost-effective and targeted solution.The Conversation

Nicola Willand, Senior Lecturer, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT UniversityNooshin Torabi, Lecturer, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, and Ralph Horne, Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research & Innovation, College of Design & Social Context, RMIT University

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

Wild-caught seafood is often untraceable – and some industry players don’t want that to change. Here’s why

Benjamin ThompsonMonash University

The wild-caught fish you buy was landed far away from cameras or scrutiny. So how do you know it really is what the label says? How do you know it was caught in a sustainable fishery? Even in regulated fisheries like Australia’s, the answer is, broadly, you don’t.

That’s because most wild-caught seafood is untraceable. Yes, it could have been caught sustainably by pole and line fishers. But it could have been relabelled as a different fish altogether. Worldwide, seafood fraud is rampant. That’s why conservationists ask fish buyers to use apps like GoodFish to check.

And while technologies now exist to solve this problem and make opaque supply chains transparent, our new research suggests many players in the Australian industry are not interested in change – particularly large wholesalers, processors and fish markets.

prawn dinner
Where did the prawns on your plate come from - and how do you know? Shutterstock

What Did We Find?

We interviewed people who work in seafood supply chains in Australia – from fishers and aquaculture companies to seafood traders and restaurants.

These insiders believed bigger supply chain actors were often not doing the right thing, by concealing trade information, manipulating prices, and with little concern about product origin.

Fishers and fish farmers explained that once their catch departs for the big seafood markets, they “lose control of the supply chain”, have “no idea where they go”, and that it’s “impossible to keep track of any of it”.

Our interviewees told us a degree of food fraud still exists. This is when a species is incorrectly labelled by name, origin or how it was caught.

This can be accidental, or done deliberately to mask certain information or to justify selling it at a higher price. For example, critically endangered species such as the school shark are being mislabelled as gummy shark – which is sustainably caught in Australia.

Chefs told us about regularly seeing species labelled as locally caught when they knew they were out of season in their state.

Fish farmers told us cheap overseas fish of questionable quality would often be sold as their fish. As one barramundi farm representative told us:

It honestly really frustrates and upsets me because you do all this work and your barramundi is happily substituted.

Fishers, fish farmers, and restaurants were largely supportive of traceability technologies. But they feared a backlash from the wholesalers on which their sales relied. Some interviewees reported experiences of threatening, bullying and cajoling from some wholesalers.

As one interviewee told us:

I know that these guys [wholesalers], right or wrong, can hold me to ransom. If they don’t buy my fish, we don’t have ability to send [high volumes] to anyone else.

How Would Traceability Improve The Situation?

At present, tracking where fish, prawns, shellfish and other seafood come from relies on largely paper-based systems. These are prone to human error, negligence, or manipulation.

In an effort to fix the problem, several traceability platforms have been developed in Australia. These tend to rely on blockchain, where encrypted “blocks” of product, trade, and price data are stored along a digital “chain” which is publicly visible.

This data is linked to a QR code on individual fish or boxes of fish. Data added include the species name, time of catch, product weight, and the time of each physical handover point – with new data being verified against preexisting data in the chain. Traders and consumers can scan these QR codes to access information on the seafood product in front of them.

In short, digital tracing of seafood would create a transparent trading environment by making public how the market operates, from buyers and sellers to the prices paid, and the ability to track seafood from ocean to plate.

A system like this would also give fishers more power. At present, wholesalers are often able to name a price that fishers simply have to accept.

Fishers would much prefer to be able to set their own prices. Traceability technology could help here too, to give fishers a sense of which seafood products are in demand right now and allow them to price their products accordingly.

seafood tracing
What if seafood was trackable from ocean to plate? Sascha RustAuthor provided

Australia Should Embrace Greater Seafood Transparency

Estimates of food fraud in global fisheries range widely, from 20% up to 90%. That is to say, we know there’s a real problem here – we just don’t know exactly how large. But we do know there are very real problems in the world’s wild-caught fisheries.

Australia could have a role here to demonstrate what good fisheries can look like. At present, our fishing authorities are primarily concerned with catch regulations at sea.

There’s not enough focus on what happens next. Our label-based traceability systems are weak compared to the European Union which has the strict import laws and seafood labelling standards that conservationists in Australia are pushing for.

But digital technology could offer something even better. While the EU’s solution is positive, it’s been criticised by scholars for being overly bureaucratic and not delivering the same depth of information.

Could it happen? Yes – but it would have to happen over the protests of those who would be disadvantaged, such as some seafood wholesalers.

One way it could happen is if the government adds more information disclosure requirements to laws governing fair competition. This would give the market the nudge required to see traceability technologies more rapidly adopted.

If nothing is done, Australia’s seafood industry could become less viable since illegal fishing practices would remain difficult to identify, putting strain on fish stocks. But we are optimistic that innovators will eventually succeed in bringing together enough actors across the supply chain to make the shift to digital traceability happen.

While many academicsdisruptors and commentators often laud blockchain as a way to rapidly drive sustainable change, our research suggests this will only occur if the most influential supply chain actors see value in using it.The Conversation

Benjamin Thompson, Lecturer in Human Geography, Monash University

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

In a bad fire year, Australia records over 450,000 hotspots. These maps show where the risks have increased over 20 years

Rick McRaeUNSW Sydney

The bushfire outlook for many parts of Australia has changed drastically over the past decade. Environmental conditions have transformed, producing larger and more destructive bushfires.

The frequency of bushfires that alter the atmospheric conditions around them has also increased. Nowhere was this more evident than during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020.

As we continue to experience the effects of climate change, these environmental changes and destructive fire events will only become more prevalent.

Thanks to satellite imaging data collected over the past 20 years, we can map and quantify the region-by-region impact of climate change and how this has affected the prevalence of fire in different parts of Australia. With more accurate bushfire modelling, we can assist fire services and land managers to determine where they need to refocus their efforts as we adjust to the long haul of adaptation to climate change.

To this end, the maps in this article show where fires occurred in two consecutive decades, and show the changes between them. They also show regions where those changes exceed a threshold, indicating a significant increase in fire activity. This enables better-targeted fire risk management.

Two Decades Of Satellite Fire Monitoring

More than 20 years ago NASA launched two satellites, (Terra in 1999 and on Aqua in 2002), to monitor the Earth’s surface with specialised sensors. One sensor, MODIS (MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), was able to see both smoke plumes and the infrared signature of fires. An algorithm was developed to classify image pixels containing fire, producing a set of “hotspots”.

Both satellites have lasted well beyond their planned mission durations. This is significant for fire managers, who now have two decades of continuous hotspot data.

Mapping Australia’s Fire Hotspots

For many years I have been analysing MODIS data from the perspective of seasonality. I have been looking at when fires occurred and whether that reflected expectations. The aim is to validate seasonal bushfire outlooks.

Map showing peak seasons for fire activity around Australia
Peak fire activity seasons for zones around Australia. Author analysis of NASA dataAuthor provided

The past 20 years of annual seasonality reviews are now available online. Each year the previous 12 months’ data were compared against those from a set time range or control period. This was a decade-long period covering a mix of El Niño and La Niña years, indicating “average” conditions.

Recently, we passed the end of the second decade of MODIS data. This opened the prospect of comparing two decades (starting in July 2002 and in July 2012) and looking for differences.

Map showing ratio of hotspots in 2019-20 to the decade average for zones around Australia
The ratio of hotspots in 2019-20 to the first decade average for zones around Australia. Author analysis of NASA dataAuthor provided

In a year with a lot of fire, Australia creates more than 450,000 hotspots. This makes the 20 years of MODIS data an irreplaceable tool for seamless, quantitative assessments of fire dynamics across Australia. The datasets are freely available online and have been used to create useful products to assist fire managers.

Several caveats apply to hotspot datasets. Low-intensity fires (especially well-planned, hazard-reduction burns), fires under heavy cloud cover, and fire runs that burn out quickly may not produce a hotspot. The latter was the case for many of the worst fire events during the Black Summer fires.

There is also no way to separate wildfire from planned fire. This has to be a goal, as both contribute to the fire regime but the balance varies a lot between regions. Future burn planning may become a major challenge as big wildfire events like Black Summer put much of the landscape into a single fire age. This makes burning difficult until the forest recovers.

To determine how fire activity had changed between the first and second decades of data, hotspots were aggregated into grid-cells. Each spanned half a degree of both latitude and longitude.

Map showing hotspot counts for the first and second decade of the past 20 years
Hotspot count maps for decade one (left) and decade two (right). Larger symbols indicate higher counts. Author analysis of NASA dataAuthor provided

By comparing the number and ratio of hotspots in the grid-cell count from decade one to that from decade two, we could determine where fire frequency was changing the most.

Map of hotspot count ratios based on first and second decade of satellite data
Hotspot count ratios from decade one to decade two, showing where fire activity has increased and decreased. Author analysis of NASA dataAuthor provided

Some areas, such as eastern New South Wales, have a very high ratio of change between the first and second decade, reflecting Black Summer. Some areas, such as Arnhem Land, have a very high hotspot count and a slight increase from the first decade to the second, which may produce a significant challenge in future.

To encompass the effects of both high counts and high ratios, a threshold was set and any region that exceeded this was an area that needed the most attention.

This produced a set of geographic regions with consistent patterns.

Map combining decade two hotspot count and inter-decadal ratios (left) is used to create map showing regions of change (right).
Combinations of decade two hotspot counts and inter-decadal ratios (left) used to create regions of change, coloured separately (right). Author analysis of NASA dataAuthor provided

The impacts detailed in the interactive map below (click on the dots for details) must be considered as longer-term management issues for the highlighted regions.

Year-to-year fire patterns have been showing extreme swings in recent years, which may swamp the longer-term trends. However, these trends have picked up many of the key operational challenges, including fire thunderstorms, of recent years.

These challenges are evident in forests in the south-east and south-west of Australia, south-east Queensland, central Tasmania and the tropics.

Hotspot Mapping In The Future

Challenges as we move forward include developing ways to merge the MODIS data with data from the next generation of satellites, and to separate data for wildfire and prescribed burning.

This and other work will allow us to better anticipate what the next decade will bring.The Conversation

Rick McRae, Adjunct Professor, School of Science at UNSW Canberra, UNSW Sydney

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

Australia is facing a 450,000-tonne mountain of used solar panels. Here’s how to turn it into a valuable asset

CPVAAuthor provided
Archie ChapmanThe University of Queensland

There were an estimated 100 million individual solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in Australia at the end of 2022. We estimate this number will likely grow to over 2 billion if we are to meet Australia’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. This growth means Australia is facing a 450,000-tonne mountain of used PV panels by 2040.

Managing all those discarded PV panels will be a huge job. Rather than treating them as “waste”, though, these panels could be a source of social, environmental and economic value. Our new industry report outlines how we can realise that value.

PV panels contain a variety of valuable materials. The panels can also be put to new uses, such as on uninhabited community and sports club buildings, for agricultural irrigation pumps, or for camping and caravanning.

However, at present, they tend to follow a linear, “take, make, dispose” lifecycle. This results in many PV panels being sent to landfill or stockpiled. Much of their value is wasted.

hand lifts up one of a pile of old solar panels
PV panels are being discarded in large numbers, but sending them to landfill is a waste. CPVAAuthor provided

What Did The Research Look At?

The University of Queensland and Circular PV Alliance have assessed the market for used and surplus PV panels, with funding from Energy Consumers Australia. Our findings are in the report launched today at the Smart Energy Council Expo in Sydney.

Our goal was to understand potential customers and value streams for used PV panels. We also wished to identify market or policy barriers to reusing, repurposing and recycling these panels.

We reviewed the academic research on the topic and conducted a series of interviews. Thirteen organisations with diverse interests in solar energy and PV panel reuse and recycling participated. A series of recurrent themes emerged that indicate potential or perceived opportunities and challenges for PV panel reuse.

What Did The Research Find?

Overall, there was broad concern among interviewees that PV panels are being decommissioned before the end of their productive lives. A few key reasons stood out:

  • renewable energy certificates encourage PV investors to install new panels rather than extend the life of older panels, because the subsidy is paid in full on installation, rather than as power is generated

  • low-quality PV products have a high failure rate

  • an array that combines different PV panels can be limited by the lowest-performing panel.

These issues contribute to the already large amounts of discarded panels coming from solar farms, and warranty and insurance claims.

However, we also found reclaimed PV panels offer low-cost, clean energy options for households and community energy projects.

Young woman in hi-viz carries PV parts as she walks past two old solar panels
Several challenges must be overcome to scale up the work of repurposing and recycling the volume of panels discarded in Australia. CPVAAuthor provided

Even when not reusable, PV panels include valuable materials that can be recovered. The average silicon panel contains silver (47% of recycled materials value), aluminium (frame, 26%), silicon (cells, 11%), glass (8%) and copper (8%).

And PV panel recycling is becoming more efficient. This has led to better-quality outputs and higher recovery rates. For example, nano-silicon created by processing recovered silicon can sell for over A$44,000 per kilogram.

A shift towards viewing a PV panel as a valuable resource or asset, rather than “waste”, will improve both consumer and industry understanding of its inherent value, even when it’s not brand new.

How Do We Turn ‘Waste’ Into An Asset?

We can keep used PV panels out of landfill by treating them as an asset through a value-capture system. This will create a variety of benefits and opportunities.

The circular economy model loops the “take, make, reuse” phases into a self-sustaining cycle. It provides a foundation to grow markets for used PV panels. This will tap into consumer demands for credible and sustainable products and services.

There are already successful examples of similar solutions for other products in Australia and around the world. Australian examples include the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme and Tyre Stewardship Australia, as well as state-based beverage container deposit schemes.

So how do we set up a circular economy for PV panels? We found a combination of policies, regulations and commercial services can overcome the obstacles to reuse and recycling.

A consistent, national approach is needed to establish successful markets for used PV panels. Standards for testing and certifying these panels, as well as repair warranties, are essential to build consumer trust in this product.

Industry reporting and accreditation requirements as well as product traceability, so the reused and recycled panels can be accounted for, are all important elements of product stewardship and used PV panel markets.

Targeted engagement with a broader range of potential consumers, insurers and PV panel manufacturers will help overcome their perceived barriers to reusing panels.

Taken together, these actions are the building blocks of creating a circular economy for PV panels in Australia. The looming volumes of used panels and ever-increasing amount of solar energy being installed in Australia compel us to do this. Consumers, industry and the environment will all benefit.

The author acknowledges Megan Jones, Circular PV Alliance co-founder and director, for her contribution to this article.The Conversation

Archie Chapman, Senior Lecturer, School of IT and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland

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

Remarkable new tech has revealed the ancient landscape of Arnhem Land that greeted Australia’s First Peoples

The view from the Arnhem Land escarpment over the floodplains that contain a hidden landscape. Ian MoffatAuthor provided
Jarrad Daniel KowlessarFlinders UniversityAlfred NayinggulIndigenous KnowledgeDaryl WesleyFlinders University, and Ian MoffatFlinders University

Many visitors to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory are struck by the magnificent cliffs, stunning bird life and extraordinary rock art. Some may know this landscape includes the earliest evidence of human occupation in what is now Australia, at Madjedbebe, where signs of habitation have been dated to 65,000 years ago.

Most people, however, ignore the expansive floodplains surrounding these sites, especially when they are covered by water during the wet season.

Our research, recently published in PLOS One, shows these floodplains hide a complex landscape buried deep underground critical to understanding the deep history of the region. We have mapped the cliffs and rivers, more than 15 metres below the current surface, which would have greeted the first people to arrive here.

Red Lily Lagoon

This landscape has been transformed by a sea-level rise of more than 120 metres, which brought the coastline from more than 200 kilometres away to lap directly on the cliffs in the Red Lily Lagoon area in Western Arnhem Land.

Since then, the East Alligator River has filled this region with sediment and the coast has retreated 60 kilometres to the northeast, leaving the current landscape of jagged sandstone cliffs surrounded by flat floodplains, which are seasonally flooded.

Arnhem Land is home to an extraordinary array of rock art. Ian Moffat

The buried landscape we have mapped contains a sandstone escarpment, now buried underground, which has great potential to contain archaeological sites. This overlooked a deep valley that contained a river system, which is now buried by more than 15 metres of sediment.

Eventually, around 8,000 years ago, this river system was flooded by sea-level rise, leading to mangroves filling the valley and levelling it with marine sediments built up between the roots of the mangrove trees.

Two photos: the top one shows a flat plain with a rocky escarpment in the background, the bottom shows the same view but with the foreground filled with brackish water and mangrove trees.
A digital reconstruction shows a view of the Red Lily Lagoon area today (top) and the same view around 7,000 years ago (bottom), when the ocean lapped against the rocky escarpment. Jarrad KowlessarAuthor provided

These major changes in the local environments are also visible through materials excavated from Madjedbebe and other sites in the area.

The excavations show people in the area ate land animals and freshwater fish before the valley flooded. But afterwards, diets changed to take advantage of the ample supply of shellfish.

Modern Maps Of An Ancient Landscape

Previous work in Arnhem Land using drilling has provided some information about the history of the landscape, but our research achieves much greater detail.

Our work used a technique called electrical resistivity tomography. This is when we pass an electrical current through the ground to measure the nature of the sediments and rocks beneath the surface. This method can map more than 50 metres below the surface, and because it doesn’t involve digging or drilling, we could work right up to existing archaeological sites.

Electrical resistivity tomography equipment used to image the subsurface of the floodplains near Red Lily Lagoon, Arnhem Land. Ian Moffat

We combined this data with aerial mapping of the modern landscape undertaken with a drone and an airborne laser. This allows us to compare the subsurface results to the contemporary land surface and get a good understanding for just how much change has occurred up to the present day.

While geophysics techniques like these are often used to find and map archaeological sites, we instead focused on reconstructing the ancient landscape itself. Knowing how landscapes have changed provides important context for understanding choices people may have made about where to live, what to eat and how to move around.

What Lies Beneath?

This research paints a new picture of the landscape that greeted the First Peoples on their arrival. This older buried landscape, which is so different to the modern one, was occupied for most of the history of human activity in the area – starting over 60,000 years ago and lasting until just 8,000 years ago.

The past 8,000 years have seen dramatic changes, from a dry river valley to a mangrove forest to today’s seasonally inundated flood plains. These changes would have had important implications for people, including in terms of what they could eat and drink, and where they could live.

Some archaeologists have questioned the accuracy of the dates of occupation determined from the Madjebebe site. Criticism has focused on possible disturbance to the site by termite activity, and also the lack of other sites of a similar age in the region.

Our research shows why a lack of other sites may not be surprising: the most likely places for people to have lived when they first occupied this area are now buried more than 10 metres beneath the floodplain.

‘We Want People To See’

Beyond Red Lily Lagoon, the methods we have used will give archaeologists a low cost, non-invasive way to understand ancient landscapes on a broad scale. Better models of how the environment has changed let us ask new questions about how people lived.

This is useful, not just as a tool for understanding why sites are where they are but also how people may have responded to the landscape around them. For example, we may have a different view of a rock art panel if we can understand what the artist could see around them when they painted it.

The research provides a new perspective on the history of the Arnhem Land region, which is important for First Nations people. Ian Moffat

This research also has important implications for First Nations people. Alfred Nayinggul, a senior Erre Traditional Owner from Arnhem Land and co-author of this research, said:

We want people to see and want people to know what’s been happening many thousand years ago in the past. We need to know where those other places in Australia are, and that it was different before, and how it was formed, and we didn’t know what it was. We need to know, us Bininj, and everyone in the world with this new technology, bringing that up to our country. I need to know, and the rest of the world would see, what was in the past.The Conversation

Jarrad Daniel Kowlessar, Associate Lecturer, Flinders UniversityAlfred Nayinggul, Senior Erre Traditional Owner, Indigenous KnowledgeDaryl Wesley, Senior research fellow, Flinders University, and Ian Moffat, Associate Professor of Archaeological Science, Flinders University

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

Human activities in Asia have reduced elephant habitat by nearly two-thirds since 1700, dividing what remains into ever-smaller patches

Habitat loss has driven Asian elephants, like these foraging at a garbage dump in Sri Lanka, into human areas. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP via Getty Images
Shermin de SilvaUniversity of California, San Diego

Despite their iconic status and long association with humans, Asian elephants are one of the most endangered large mammals. Believed to number between 45,000 and 50,000 individuals worldwide, they are at risk throughout Asia due to human activities such as deforestation, mining, dam building and road construction, which have damaged numerous ecosystems.

My colleagues and I wanted to know when human actions started to fragment wildlife habitats and populations to the degree seen today. We quantified these impacts by considering them through the needs of this species.

In a newly published study, we examined the centuries-long history of Asian landscapes that once were suitable elephant habitat and often were managed by local communities prior to the colonial era. In our view, understanding this history and restoring some of these relationships may be the key to living with elephants and other large wild animals in the future.

Several elephants walk along a path parallel to a road with cars on it.
Although elephants can cross roads and other infrastructure, elephant habitats across Asia are increasingly hemmed in, with firm boundaries between human and wildlife spaces. These elephants are in Sri Lanka. Shermin de SilvaCC BY-ND

How Have Humans Affected Wildlife?

It isn’t easy to measure human impacts on wildlife across a region as large and diverse as Asia and more than a century ago. Historical data for many species is sparse. Museums, for instance, only contain specimens collected from certain locations.

Many animals also have very specific ecological requirements, and there often isn’t sufficient data on these features at a fine scale going far into the past. For instance, a species might prefer particular microclimates or vegetation types that occur only at particular elevations.

For nearly two decades I’ve been studying Asian elephants. As a species, these animals are breathtakingly adaptable: They can live in seasonally dry forests, grasslands or the densest of rain forests. If we could match the habitat requirements of elephants to data sets showing how these habitats changed over time, we knew that we could understand how land-use changes have affected elephants and other wildlife in these environments.

Fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild across 13 countries. Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for their decline.

Defining Elephant Ecosystems

The home-range sizes of Asian elephants can vary anywhere from a few hundred square miles to a few thousand. But since we couldn’t know exactly where elephants would have been centuries ago, we had to model the possibilities based on where they occur today.

By identifying the environmental features that correspond to locations where wild elephants live now, we can distinguish places where they could potentially have lived in the past. In principle, this should represent “good” habitat.

Today many scientists are using this kind of model to identify particular species’ climatic requirements and predict how areas suitable for those species might shift under future climate change scenarios. We applied the same logic retrospectively, using land-use and land-cover types instead of climate change projections.

We drew this information from the Land-Use Harmonization (LUH2) data set, released by a research group at the University of Maryland. The group mapped historical land-use categories by type, starting in the year 850 – long before the advent of nations as we know them today, with fewer large population centers – and extending up to 2015.

Map showing active, possible and potential elephant range across Asia.
Asian elephants live in countries with large human populations, and their range has been shrunk and fragmented. Their future depends on human attitudes toward elephants and their conservation. Hedges et al., 2008, via Trunks & LeavesCC BY-ND

My co-authors and I first compiled records of where Asian elephants have been observed in the recent past. We limited our study to the 13 countries that today still contain wild elephants: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

We excluded areas where elephant populations are prone to clashing with people, such as intensively farmed landscapes and plantations, in order to avoid classifying these zones as “good” elephant habitat. We included areas with lighter human influence, such as selectively logged forests, because they actually contain great food for elephants.

Next, we used a machine-learning algorithm to determine what types of land use and land cover existed at our remaining locations. This allowed us to map out where elephants could potentially live as of the year 2000. By applying our model to earlier and later years, we were able to generate maps of areas that contained suitable habitat for elephants and to see how those areas had changed over the centuries.

A line of elephants drinking at a reservoir.
Some human-made features, like this reservoir in Sri Lanka, can also be resources for wildlife. Shermin de SilvaCC BY-ND

Dramatic Declines

Land-use patterns changed significantly on every continent starting with the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s and extending through the colonial era into the mid-20th century. Asia was no exception.

For most areas, we found that suitable elephant habitat took a steep dive around this time. We estimated that from 1700 through 2015 the total amount of suitable habitat decreased by 64%. More than 1.2 million square miles (3 million square kilometers) of land were converted for plantations, industry and urban development. With respect to potential elephant habitat, most of the change occurred in India and China, each of which saw conversion in more than 80% of these landscapes.

In other areas of Southeast Asia – such as a large hot spot of elephant habitat in central Thailand, which was never colonized – habitat loss happened more recently, in the mid-20th century. This timing corresponds to logging concurrent with the so-called Green Revolution, which introduced industrial agriculture to many parts of the world.

Could The Past Be The Key To The Future?

Looking back at land-use change over centuries makes it clear just how drastically human actions have reduced habitat for Asian elephants. The losses that we measured greatly exceed estimates of “catastrophic” human impacts on so-called wilderness or forests within recent decades.

Our analysis shows that if you were an elephant in the 1700s, you might have been able to range across 40% of the available habitat in Asia with no problem, because it was one large, contiguous area that contained many ecosystems where you could live. This enabled gene flow among many elephant populations. But by 2015, human activities had so drastically fragmented the total suitable area for elephants that the largest patch of good habitat represented less than 7% of it.

Sri Lanka and peninsular Malaysia have a disproportionately high share of Asia’s wild elephant population, relative to available elephant habitat area. Thailand and Myanmar have smaller populations relative to area. Interestingly, the latter are countries known for their large captive or semi-captive elephant populations.

Less than half of the areas that contain wild elephants today have adequate habitat for them. Elephants’ resulting use of increasingly human-dominated landscapes leads to confrontations that are harmful for both elephants and people.

However, this long view of history reminds us that protected areas alone are not the answer, since they simply cannot be large enough to support elephant populations. Indeed, human societies have shaped these very landscapes for millennia.

Today there is a pressing challenge to balance human subsistence and livelihood requirements with the needs of wildlife. Restoring traditional forms of land management and local stewardship of these landscapes can be an essential part of protecting and recovering ecosystems that serve both people and wildlife in the future.The Conversation

Shermin de Silva, Assistant Professor of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, University of California, San Diego

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 Stroll Through Warriewood Wetlands by Joe Mills February 2023
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
Mona Vale Woolworths Front Entrance Gets Garden Upgrade: A Few Notes On The Site's History 
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 Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden 
Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern, Wilshire Parks, McKay Reserve: From Beach to Estuary 
Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  
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 - Creeks Deteriorating: How To Report Construction Site Breaches, Weed Infestations + The Long Campaign To Save The Warriewood Wetlands & Ingleside Escarpment March 2023
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

Pittwater's Birds

Attracting Insectivore Birds to Your Garden: DIY Natural Tick Control small bird insectivores, species like the Silvereye, Spotted Pardalote, Gerygone, Fairywren and Thornbill, feed on ticks. Attracting these birds back into your garden will provide not only a residence for tick eaters but also the delightful moments watching these tiny birds provides.
Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2017: Take part from 23 - 29 October - how many birds live here?
Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2018 - Our Annual 'What Bird Is That?' Week Is Here! This week the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count runs from 22-28 October 2018. Pittwater is one of those places fortunate to have birds that thrive because of an Aquatic environment, a tall treed Bush environment and areas set aside for those that dwell closer to the ground, in a sand, scrub or earth environment. To take part all you need is 20 minutes and your favourite outdoor space. Head to the website and register as a Counter today! And if you're a teacher, check out BirdLife Australia's Bird Count curriculum-based lesson plans to get your students (or the whole school!) involved

Australian Predators of the Sky by Penny Olsen - published by National Library of Australia

Australian Raven  Australian Wood Duck Family at Newport

A Week In Pittwater Issue 128   A Week In Pittwater - June 2014 Issue 168

Baby Birds Spring 2015 - Rainbow Lorikeets in our Yard - for Children Baby Birds by Lynleigh Greig, Southern Cross Wildlife Care - what do if being chased by a nesting magpie or if you find a baby bird on the ground

Baby Kookaburras in our Backyard: Aussie Bird Count 2016 - October

Balloons Are The Number 1 Marine Debris Risk Of Mortality For Our Seabirds - Feb 2019 Study

Bangalley Mid-Winter   Barrenjoey Birds Bird Antics This Week: December 2016

Bird of the Month February 2019 by Michael Mannington

Birdland Above the Estuary - October 2012  Birds At Our Window   Birds at our Window - Winter 2014  Birdland June 2016

Birdsong Is a Lovesong at This time of The Year - Brown Falcon, Little Wattle Bird, Australian Pied cormorant, Mangrove or Striated Heron, Great Egret, Grey Butcherbird, White-faced Heron 

Bird Songs – poems about our birds by youngsters from yesterdays - for children Bird Week 2015: 19-25 October

Bird Songs For Spring 2016 For Children by Joanne Seve

Birds at Careel Creek this Week - November 2017: includes Bird Count 2017 for Local Birds - BirdLife Australia by postcode

Black Cockatoo photographed in the Narrabeen Catchment Reserves this week by Margaret G Woods - July 2019

Black-Necked Stork, Mycteria Australis, Now Endangered In NSW, Once Visited Pittwater: Breeding Pair shot in 1855

Black Swans on Narrabeen Lagoon - April 2013   Black Swans Pictorial

Brush Turkeys In Suburbia: There's An App For That - Citizen Scientists Called On To Spot Brush Turkeys In Their Backyards
Buff-banded Rail spotted at Careel Creek 22.12.2012: a breeding pair and a fluffy black chick

Cayley & Son - The life and Art of Neville Henry Cayley & Neville William Cayley by Penny Olsen - great new book on the art works on birds of these Australian gentlemen and a few insights from the author herself
Crimson Rosella - + Historical Articles on

Death By 775 Cuts: How Conservation Law Is Failing The Black-Throated Finch - new study 'How to Send a Finch Extinct' now published

Eastern Rosella - and a little more about our progression to protecting our birds instead of exporting them or decimating them.

Endangered Little Tern Fishing at Mona Vale Beach

‘Feather Map of Australia’: Citizen scientists can support the future of Australia's wetland birds: for Birdwatchers, school students and everyone who loves our estuarine and lagoon and wetland birds

First Week of Spring 2014

Fledgling Common Koel Adopted by Red Wattlebird -Summer Bird fest 2013  Flegdlings of Summer - January 2012

Flocks of Colour by Penny Olsen - beautiful new Bird Book Celebrates the 'Land of the Parrots'

Friendly Goose at Palm Beach Wharf - Pittwater's Own Mother Goose

Front Page Issue 177  Front Page Issue 185 Front Page Issue 193 - Discarded Fishing Tackle killing shorebirds Front Page Issue 203 - Juvenile Brush Turkey  Front Page Issue 208 - Lyrebird by Marita Macrae Front Page Issue 219  Superb Fairy Wren Female  Front Page Issue 234National Bird Week October 19-25  and the 2015 the Aussie Back Yard Bird Count: Australia's First Bird Counts - a 115 Year Legacy - with a small insight into our first zoos Front Page Issue 236: Bird Week 2015 Front Page Issue 244: watebirds Front Page Issue 260: White-face Heron at Careel Creek Front Page Issue 283: Pittwater + more birds for Bird Week/Aussie Bird Count  Front Page Issue 284: Pittwater + more birds for Bird Week/Aussie Bird Count Front Page Issue 285: Bird Week 2016  Front Page Issue 331: Spring Visitor Birds Return

G . E. Archer Russell (1881-1960) and His Passion For Avifauna From Narrabeen To Newport 

Glossy Black-Cockatoo Returns To Pittwater by Paul Wheeler Glossy Cockatoos - 6 spotted at Careel Bay February 2018

Grey Butcher Birds of Pittwater

Harry Wolstenholme (June 21, 1868 - October 14, 1930) Ornithologist Of Palm Beach, Bird Man Of Wahroonga 


Issue 60 May 2012 Birdland - Smiles- Beamings -Early -Winter - Blooms

Jayden Walsh’s Northern Beaches Big Year - courtesy Pittwater Natural Heritage Association

John Gould's Extinct and Endangered Mammals of Australia  by Dr. Fred Ford - Between 1850 and 1950 as many mammals disappeared from the Australian continent as had disappeared from the rest of the world between 1600 and 2000! Zoologist Fred Ford provides fascinating, and often poignant, stories of European attitudes and behaviour towards Australia's native fauna and connects these to the animal's fate today in this beautiful new book - our interview with the author

July 2012 Pittwater Environment Snippets; Birds, Sea and Flowerings

Juvenile Sea Eagle at Church Point - for children

King Parrots in Our Front Yard  

Kookaburra Turf Kookaburra Fledglings Summer 2013  Kookaburra Nesting Season by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 1.5 and 2.5 weeks old by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 3 and 4 weeks old by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 5 weeks old by Ray Chappelow Kookaburra and Pittwater Fledglings February 2020 to April 2020

Lion Island's Little Penguins (Fairy Penguins) Get Fireproof Homes - thanks to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Fix it Sisters Shed

Lorikeet - Summer 2015 Nectar

Lyre Bird Sings in Local National Park - Flock of Black Cockatoos spotted - June 2019

Magpie's Melodic Melodies - For Children (includes 'The Magpie's Song' by F S Williamson)

Masked Lapwing (Plover) - Reflected

May 2012 Birdland Smiles Beamings Early Winter Blooms 

Mistletoebird At Bayview

Musk Lorikeets In Pittwater: Pittwater Spotted Gum Flower Feast - May 2020

Nankeen Kestrel Feasting at Newport: May 2016

National Bird Week 2014 - Get Involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count: National Bird Week 2014 will take place between Monday 20 October and Sunday 26 October, 2014. BirdLife Australia and the Birds in Backyards team have come together to launch this year’s national Bird Week event the Aussie Backyard Bird Count! This is one the whole family can do together and become citizen scientists...

National Bird Week October 19-25  and the 2015 the Aussie Back Yard Bird Count: Australia's First Bird Counts - a 115 Year Legacy - with a small insight into our first zoos

Native Duck Hunting Season Opens in Tasmania and Victoria March 2018: hundreds of thousands of endangered birds being killed - 'legally'!

Nature 2015 Review Earth Air Water Stone

New Family of Barking Owls Seen in Bayview - Church Point by Pittwater Council

Noisy Visitors by Marita Macrae of PNHA 

Odes to Australia's Fairy-wrens by Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen and Constance Le Plastrier 1884 and 1926

Oystercatcher and Dollarbird Families - Summer visitors

Pacific Black Duck Bath

Painted Button-Quail Rescued By Locals - Elanora-Ingleside escarpment-Warriewood wetlands birds

Palm Beach Protection Group Launch, Supporters InvitedSaturday Feb.16th - Residents Are Saying 'NO' To Off-Leash Dogs In Station Beach Eco-System - reports over 50 dogs a day on Station Beach throughout December-January (a No Dogs Beach) small children being jumped on, Native birds chased, dog faeces being left, families with toddlers leaving beach to get away from uncontrolled dogs and 'Failure of Process' in council 'consultation' open to February 28th 

Pardalote, Scrub Wren and a Thornbill of Pittwater

Pecking Order by Robyn McWilliam

Pelican Lamps at Narrabeen  Pelican Dreamsong - A Legend of the Great Flood - dreamtime legend for children

Pittwater Becalmed  Pittwater Birds in Careel Creek Spring 2018   Pittwater Waterbirds Spring 2011  Pittwater Waterbirds - A Celebration for World Oceans Day 2015

Pittwater's Little Penguin Colony: The Saving of the Fairies of Lion Island Commenced 65 Years Ago this Year - 2019

Pittwater's Mother Nature for Mother's Day 2019

Pittwater's Waterhens: Some Notes - Narrabeen Creek Bird Gathering: Curious Juvenile Swamp Hen On Warriewood Boardwalk + Dusky Moorhens + Buff Banded Rails In Careel Creek

Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050 by CSIRO

Plover Appreciation Day September 16th 2015

Powerful and Precious by Lynleigh Grieg

Red Wattlebird Song - November 2012

Restoring The Diamond: every single drop. A Reason to Keep Dogs and Cats in at Night. 

Salt Air Creatures Feb.2013

Sea Birds off the Pittwater Coast: Albatross, Gannet, Skau + Australian Poets 1849, 1898 and 1930, 1932

Sea Eagle Juvenile at Church Point

Seagulls at Narrabeen Lagoon

Seen but Not Heard: Lilian Medland's Birds - Christobel Mattingley - one of Australia's premier Ornithological illustrators was a Queenscliff lady - 53 of her previously unpublished works have now been made available through the auspices of the National Library of Australia in a beautiful new book

7 Little Ducklings: Just Keep Paddling - Australian Wood Duck family take over local pool by Peta Wise 

Shag on a North Avalon Rock -  Seabirds for World Oceans Day 2012

Short-tailed Shearwaters Spring Migration 2013 

South-West North-East Issue 176 Pictorial

Spring 2012 - Birds are Splashing - Bees are Buzzing

Spring Becomes Summer 2014- Royal Spoonbill Pair at Careel Creek

Spring Notes 2018 - Royal Spoonbill in Careel Creek

Station Beach Off Leash Dog Area Proposal Ignores Current Uses Of Area, Environment, Long-Term Fauna Residents, Lack Of Safe Parking and Clearly Stated Intentions Of Proponents have your say until February 28, 2019

Summer 2013 BirdFest - Brown Thornbill  Summer 2013 BirdFest- Canoodlers and getting Wet to Cool off  Summer 2013 Bird Fest - Little Black Cormorant   Summer 2013 BirdFest - Magpie Lark

The Mopoke or Tawny Frogmouth – For Children - A little bit about these birds, an Australian Mopoke Fairy Story from 91 years ago, some poems and more - photo by Adrian Boddy
Winter Bird Party by Joanne Seve

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 -

History Of The Narrabeen Tramline

By BackTracks Channel 

2023 HSC Timetable Released

April 28, 2023
More than 75,000 HSC students from across NSW found out their timetable for written exams starting on 11 October last Friday.

Minister for Education Prue Car launched the official timetable for the 2023 HSC, a significant milestone for students sitting exams later in the year, and the teachers who supported them throughout high school.

“I know for many teachers, seeing their HSC students approach the finish line of a 13-year schooling career brings mixed emotions,” said Ms Car.

“My high school teachers went above and beyond for me, and my HSC classmates. Despite workload pressures, teachers continue to deliver for our young people.

“This Government will work with teachers to address workload and pay.

“That is how we keep teachers in the profession and attract the next generation of educators, some of whom will come from this HSC cohort,” Ms Car said.

With this year’s written exam period operating across 18 days, involving more than 75,000 students, 124 exams and 785 exam centres – the operation of exams is no small feat.

NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) CEO Paul Martin said planning the HSC exam timetable was a momentous task to ensure every student has an opportunity to show what they know.

“Each year, NESA works hard to ensure that the timetable for HSC students is as fair and equitable as possible, so everyone has the opportunity to prepare and do their best in the written exams,” said Mr Martin.

HSC written exams will start on Wednesday 11 October 2023 with English Paper 1 and finish on Friday 3 November 2023 with Food Technology.

“All the best to the HSC Class of 2023 as you prepare to take on the final hurdle. You are one step closer to the end of their high school journey and your next chapter,” Ms Car said.

All 2023 HSC students can now access their timetable on Students Online. The full 2023 HSC written exam timetable is also now available.

Timetables for Languages oral exams and practical exams are already available on the NESA website.

Students are invited to visit one of the HSC and Careers Expo’s in metro and regional NSW from April to November 2023. For dates and venue locations, visit the NESA website

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: Mother

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


1. a woman in relation to her child or children. 2. a female parent. 3. a woman in authority. especially : a nun in charge of a convent. 4. an elderly woman.


1. bring up (a child) with care and affection. 2. (archaic) give birth to.

From:  Middle English moder, from Old English mōdor, from Proto-Germanic mōdēr, from Proto-Indo-European méh₂tēr. Superseded non-native Middle English mere (“mother”) borrowed from Old French mere (“mother”).

Mother's Day is a celebration honouring the mother of the family or individual, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on different days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations, honouring family members, such as Father's Day, Siblings Day, and Grandparents' Day.

In Australia, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, making next Sunday, May 14th, this years' Mothers Day. Our mums are the wonderful human beings who may make mistakes sometimes, after all, who doesn't? BUT they are also the people who will tell you when you ask 'what was your dream for you?' will answer - 'YOU, you were my dream  come true - all I wanted was to have you.'.

Whether you bae her a cake, make some pancakes for breakfast or just give her a big hug and 'I love you' next Sunday - that will all be just fine, just by getting to see and hear YOU!

Australia celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time in 1909 with special church services, however, it was not popularly observed until the 1920s. 

The effort which is being made to introduce the observance of the second Sunday in May as mothers' day—a custom widely recognised in the United States—met with some success yesterday.    
The wearing of a white flower, which was suggested as an appropriate symbol of truth and purity, though not greatly in evidence, was noticeable here and there; but the chief feature which seemed to direct attention to the idea was the pulpit references. In city and suburban churches preachers spoke of the reverence due to mothers,  and in some instances brief addresses were given to the young people to emphasize what the world owed to the influence of good and virtuous maternal parents. 
  MOTHERS DAY. (1909, May 10). The Register(Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 7. Retrieved from 


An effort is being made to Introduce "Mothers' Day" into Australia, and Sunday next, June 19, has been chosen as the day on which sons and daughters are asked to show that they love their mother, if living, and honour her memory, if dead, by the wearing of a white carnation, or other white flower on that day. The white carnation has been specially chosen as the emblem denoting purity, faithfulness, chastity, charity, and love, all of these qualities being found in a true mother "Mother's Day" has been kept in America for the last four years, the second Sunday In May being the day appointed for this purpose. Next year an endeavour will be made in Australia to keep "Mother's Day" at the same time as the other countries do, but this year it was impossible to do so.

It is a wise plan selecting Sunday, rather than a week day, as the day on which to celebrate "Mother's Day." There are some families who are only able to meet all together on Sunday and in addition, there will be more time to devote to mother on that day than any other. The sons and daughters who are away from homo, and unable to be with mother on June 13 ("Mother's Day"), could send a loving message by letter, or wire, to reach mother somewhere about that time. They might also seek to help to cheer and brighten the life of somebody else's mother near them by a loving word or deed.

It is interesting to note it was a woman who first thought of the Idea of "Mother's Day", Miss Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, being the originator of the scheme. Her mother having died and Miss Anna Jarvis desiring in some way to show her appreciation of a good mother, suggested that a special day should be set apart as "Mother's Day," a day when the living mothers as well as the dead would be specially remembered by their children.

Is it not right that a day should be set apart in honour of the good mothers still with us and in memory of the mothers who are gone? Empire Day is an established fact now, and it is to be hoped before long "Mother's Day" will be universally kept throughout the world, because, while honouring our Empire, it is only proper we should also honour the Empire builders — the good mothers.  MOTHER'S DAY. (1910, June 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from

The tradition of giving gifts on Mother’s Day in Australia started in 1924. Sydney woman Janet Heyden was inspired to collect charitable gifts for lonely, old mothers in Newington hospital who had lost husbands and sons during WW1. Because it is autumn in Australia for Mother’s Day, and carnations are a spring flower, white chrysanthemums are the traditional Mother’s Day flower in Australia.

Chrysanthemums (Chinese: pinyin: Júhuā) were first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC. Over 500 cultivars had been recorded by 1630. Chrysanthemum cultivation began in Japan during the Nara and Heian periods (early 8th to late 12th centuries), and gained popularity in the Edo period (early 17th to late 19th century). Many flower shapes, colours, and varieties were created. The way the flowers were grown and shaped also developed, and chrysanthemum culture flourished. Various cultivars of chrysanthemums created in the Edo period were characterized by a remarkable variety of flower shapes, and were exported to China from the end of the Edo period, changing the way Chinese chrysanthemum cultivars were grown and their popularity. In addition, from the Meiji period (late 19th to early 20th century), many cultivars with flowers over 20 cm (7.87 in) in diameter, called the Ogiku (lit., great chrysanthemum) style were created, which influenced the subsequent trend of chrysanthemums. The Imperial Seal of Japan is a chrysanthemum and the institution of the monarchy is also called the Chrysanthemum Throne. A number of festivals and shows take place throughout Japan in autumn when the flowers bloom. Chrysanthemum Day (Kiku no Sekku) is one of the five ancient sacred festivals. It is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month. It was started in 910, when the imperial court held its first chrysanthemum show. The festival is celebrated in the wish for the longevity of one's life and is observed by drinking chrysanthemum sake and eating dishes such as chestnut rice.

Chrysanthemums in the Japanese Ogiku (lit., great chrysanthemum) style. Photo: katorisi 

60 years of The Australian Ballet and 90 years of ‘Australian’ ballet: Identity asks us to reflect on Australian dance today

Daniel Boud/The Australian Ballet
Yvette GrantThe University of Melbourne

When The Australian Ballet was founded in 1962, its charter stated that, alongside international repertoire and visiting international choreographers, it must engage Australian choreographers and produce Australian works.

But what does “Australian” look like in ballet?

In 1989, dancer, teacher, choreographer and director of The Ballet Guild (later Ballet Victoria) Laurel Martyn was asked about what it meant for ballet to be Australian:

It’s Australian because it comes out of our experience, what we think, how we do things […] It must come out of our own lives, our own way of seeing.

Martyn had choreographed her first Australian ballet in 1941. The project of creating Australian ballet is not a new one.

In 1964, Robert Helpmann claimed his ballet The Display was the first Australian ballet, because it was the first with an Australian score, designer, story and choreographer.

His ballet met all those criteria with its Aussie rules football, machismo, bush picnics and lyrebirds – but there had been many much earlier than his.

Like Helpmann’s ballet, some focused on Australian cultural life, such as Kira Bousloff’s The Beach Inspector (1958) and Rex Reid’s The Melbourne Cup (1963).

Others celebrated Australian industry. Joanna Priest’s The Lady Augusta (1946) was about the maiden voyage of a steamship along the Murray River to transport wool. Valrene Tweedie’s Wakooka (1955) was about life on a sheep station.

Still others looked to the rich natural environment, such as Martyn’s Voyageur about Australian migratory birds (1956).

And there were those that appropriated Australian Indigenous culture in their attempt to create an identity of this place. The most infamous of these was Beth Dean’s Corroboree with white dancers in blackface performing for Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.

Since then, Australian ballet has radically transformed the way that it includes First Nations identity in its construction of what it means to be Australian. The 1989 founding of Bangarra Dance Theatre was key to this new Australian identity in dance.

A reflection of this transformation was The Australian Ballet’s 1997 work Rites, a creation of then Bangarra artistic director Stephen Page. Page brought the two companies together in a First Nations’ reimagining of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

At The Australian Ballet’s 30th anniversary in 1992, the company staged an Australian reimagining of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Graeme Murphy.

Murphy’s ballet told a story of the importance of migration to Australia: a history of how war in Europe had led many Russian dancers to stay, enriching our cultural landscape and firmly setting ballet’s roots in this country.

Now, for its 60th anniversary, the company is again asking what is an “Australian ballet”. This time it’s answering the question with a two-part program Identity. Identity features Wiradjuri man Daniel Riley’s THE HUM, a collaboration with Australian Dance Theatre, and Alice Topp’s Paragon, which brings back to the stage many company alumni.

Both works demonstrate an approach to creating an Australian ballet that, as the program suggests, “explores the community of the stage”. They each return to Martyn’s statement that for ballet to be Australian it must come from us.

Who is on that stage as part of that community, then, becomes critical.


THE HUM has a powerful First Nations presence including choreographer Riley, composer Deborah Cheetham Fraillon, costume designer Annette Sax and dancer Karra Nam, and engages a conversation not only with white settler Australia but also between contemporary dance and ballet.

Dancers encounter each other with a deep breath in. Holding their gaze, they drop twice at the knees with two short sharp outbreaths: confrontation and common ground.

Dancers on stage under a neon orange sun.
THE HUM brings together dancers of The Australian Ballet and Australian Dance Theatre. Daniel Boud/The Australian Ballet

Black rock formations that frame the stage are turned around and repurposed, their constructed nature exposed, a metaphor for our inherited Australian identity.

Neon lights and projected computer-generated images combine with the natural moon, water and tree branches, reminding us we are both of country and city in the 21st century.

Who is on the stage as part of a community becomes critical. Daniel Boud/The Australian Ballet

THE HUM shows a community where members are finally facing each other but haven’t yet worked out who they are together – although they know where to begin. The audience is equally tasked with this provocation.


In Paragon, Topp shows us who The Australian Ballet has been in footage, images, dance styles and in the returning dancers who carry the company’s history in their bodies. These include Marilyn Rowe, who had her debut with the company in 1965, Simon Dow, who joined in 1974, and Lucinda Dunn, who danced with the company for 24 years until 2014.

Topp also shows us who we might be into the future in the bodies of the company’s young dancers.

And in bringing these elements together on the one stage, she shows us where we are now.

David McAllister
Paragon brings company alumni to the stage with the current crop of dancers. Daniel Boud/The Australian Ballet

The work exudes a combination of strength and tenderness. Avoiding any trumpet blowing, it offers a thoughtful and sometimes playful celebratory reflection: achingly nostalgic yet its own contemporary work.

Divided into 12 parts, it juxtaposes lyrical pas de deux in Grecian white with powerful ’80s Spartacus-style male corps de ballet in black; almost floating 19th-century ladies in long gold ball gowns moving through elegant formations with sets of duos in studio wear moving independently or in canon.

Amber Scott and Adam Bull
Paragon is achingly nostalgic yet its own contemporary work. Daniel Boud/The Australian Ballet

The ages of the dancers are highly visible. Older and younger bodies dance on the ballet stage together, demanding our attention. Much like THE HUM, Paragon is a result of this community, an honouring of ancestors and a revelation of ever-present history.

The Australian identity is a work in progress, but in Identity it is heartening to witness that one of our iconic cultural institutions is up for the challenge.

Identity is at the Sydney Opera House until May 20, and then at Arts Centre Melbourne June 16-24.The Conversation

Yvette Grant, PhD (Dance) Candidate and Dance History Tutor, The University of Melbourne

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

Why ‘finding your purpose’ matters – and four ways to find yours

How can you find a sense of purpose? GaudiLab/Shutterstock
Nilufar AhmedUniversity of Bristol

Often presented as the solution for people lacking direction, the notion of “finding your purpose” might sound like a cliche. But having a sense of purpose has been linked with a range of physical and mental health benefits. So what actually is purpose, why does it matter, and how can you find yours?

Purpose is interrelated with “goals” and “meaning”, but not the same as either. Goals are specific actionable aims we have – for example graduating, getting a job, or losing weight. While goals can be accomplished, meaning is a broader, subjective response. We might find meaning in listening to certain music, or watching the sunset, or volunteering for a good cause. Meaning occurs when we ascribe personal significance to things.

Purpose, however, is less tangible. It can be described as a guiding principle that frames our sense of meaning and our goals. It has been defined as:

A stable and generalised intention to accomplish something that is at once personally meaningful and at the same time leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond the self.

The latter part of this definition in particular – those wider connections beyond the self – are linked to positive mental health and wellbeing.

Individual Versus Collective

In modern society, there tends to be a greater focus on setting and achieving individual goals and less on creating meaningful connections with others, which are important for finding meaning and purpose in our lives.

With people working longer hours, goals are often work-driven, leaving little time to pursue personal goals outside work. So, if our work isn’t aligned with our purpose, even when meeting goals we can feel a reduced sense of purpose.

Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Positive affirmations: how talking to yourself can let the light in

How a night of poor sleep can affect your next day at work – and four ways to function better

Owning houseplants can boost your mental health – here’s how to pick the right one

Young people in particular face constant messages about how they should achieve more, including pressure to start a side hustle and to aspire to the lives of social media stars, many of which are unattainable.

While today’s “hustle culture” (which emphasises relentless work as necessary for success) might present a barrier to finding purpose in life, a new interest, hobby or even second job that is driven by purpose can also mitigate against the pressures and burnout commonly associated with modern life.

How Does Purpose Help?

Over the life course, roles change. For example, we’ll change friendship groups. We might get married and become a parent. Expectations at work will change, and one day we’ll probably retire. When our identities are too strongly linked to any of these roles, it can leave us feeling lost or uneasy when things change.

But research suggests that having a sense of purpose can help us rebalance, avoiding reactive ups and downs. Purpose makes us better able to tolerate stress, and bounce back when we face difficulties.

Research among nurses, for example, found a sense of purpose helped them navigate the intense emotions of their work, and allowed them to be empathic without draining their emotional resources.

A light box sign reading 'find your purpose'.
Purpose is not necessarily a tangible concept. mayu85/Shutterstock

People who report having a sense of purpose have greater satisfaction at workfinancial success, and overall life satisfaction. Purpose is linked with a stronger sense of identity and improved mental health.

Having a sense of purpose is also associated with better physical health – for example, a lower risk of strokeheart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Health benefits like these probably explain why people with purpose tend to age well and live longer.

These associations are thought to occur partly because having a sense of purpose increases healthy practices such as physical activity and social connections. This buffers against loneliness, which is known to affect physical health.

As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I’ve noticed that the question of purpose and seeking meaning frequently brings people to therapy – even if they don’t know it when they arrive. People who are outwardly very successful in work and relationships can report feeling unsettled without knowing the reason. Often, the sessions uncover feelings of being disconnected from, or lacking, a sense of purpose.

Tips To Find Your Purpose

  1. Find some time to write. Journalling allows you to organise your thoughts and can increase wellbeing. Writing down things that make you feel happiness, anger or sadness can reveal topics that matter to you. For example, have you experienced something that felt unjust? Often, purposes are aligned with social justice: tackling poverty, increasing access to education, reducing obesity, challenging racism.

  2. List your values. Identifying our values can help focus thinking about our purpose and the actions we can take to support this. For example, if you’ve identified the climate crisis as something you feel strongly about, but your values tend towards avoiding social disruption, you will be unlikely to get involved in a protest regardless of how much you support the issue. You may instead focus on a different way of connecting with your purpose, such as recycling more or driving less.

  3. Find your passion. What do you love to do? If you love dancing and you want to tackle poverty, maybe there will be ways of getting involved in teaching dance to disadvantaged children. If you love reading, you may want to explore finding ways of applying this, such as reading to patients in hospital or supporting children with their reading in schools.

  4. Get involved. Purpose is about something bigger and beyond the self. Is there a way of bringing together the things that matter to you with some way of giving back? Volunteering helps to create a sense of wellbeing and purpose, and can connect you with others.

Remember, purpose is not something we achieve at a certain point in time. It’s a journey across the life course rather than a destination. So, to find your purpose, first take your time reconnecting with yourself.The Conversation

Nilufar Ahmed, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences, CPsychol, FHEA, University of Bristol

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

Alone Australia contestants are grappling with isolation and setbacks. Here’s what makes a winner

Will it be Gina? SBS TV
Lisa A WilliamsUNSW Sydney

The winner of the reality TV show Alone Australia will need more than “survival skills” to succeed. They will also need to draw on a host of psychological strengths.

Will the winner be the one who shows the most mental toughness or “grit”? Will it be the one who copes with being socially isolated in the Tasmanian wilderness for weeks? How about the contestant who takes a moment to feel awe watching a sunset?

I’m a social psychology researcher, specialising in the dynamics between social interactions and emotions. Here’s what happens when you take away those social interactions, and some thoughts on who’s most likely to thrive.

Remind Me, What’s Alone Australia?

Alone Australia on SBS TV involves ten contestants who are dropped into the wilds of a Tasmanian winter. Each has ten chosen items (from an approved list) and kilos of recording equipment.

Aside from medical check-ins, they have no social contact. Over the coming days and weeks, they film themselves building a shelter, making fire, and finding food and water. Some thrive, some clearly struggle.

Contestants can choose to “tap out” or can be removed for medical reasons. The contestant who lasts the longest wins A$250,000.

Contestants were selected on the basis of having survival skills and a personality likely to be engaging on camera.

But success on the show will likely also stem from a range of psychological capacities – and perhaps a bit of good luck.

Mental Toughness Is Key

Contestants face a gruelling environment. They are repeatedly challenged by the terrain and weather, as well as by hunger and setbacks.

Here, “mental toughness”, which is related to the popular idea of “grit”, plays a role.

Mental toughness is a group of personality characteristics originally identified in elite and successful athletes. It relates to coping with the pressures of competition, as well as setting and following through on training and performance goals.

Athletes higher in mental toughness tend to perform better. Mentally tough military recruits are more likely to be selected to join special forces.

Mike, contestant on Alone Australia, in Tasmanian wilderness
Will it be Mike? SBS TV

Can mental toughness be cultivated in the moment? It appears so. Thinking back to past failures tends to spur people to stick to current tough goals. Future thinking also plays a role. Imagining a future in which you are confident and in control builds self-reported toughness.

We know mentally tough people use a few “performance strategies”. These include talking positively to themselves (either out loud or in their mind), controlling their emotions, and intentionally staying relaxed. People can practise and draw on these strategies in the face of adversity. Mentally tough people also avoid negative thinking such as leaning into thoughts of failure or engaging in self-blame.

But mental toughness has limits. When fatigued, mental toughness no longer predicts perseverance towards a difficult physical goal. Instead, underlying fitness levels appear to be critical.

Combating Loneliness Is Crucial

The main premise of the show – and its namesake – is total social isolation.

Research highlights the difference between social isolation (lack of opportunity for social interaction) and loneliness (the distressing feeling that one’s social needs aren’t being met). A person can be socially isolated but not feel lonely or feel lonely even in the presence of others.

Not everyone has the same needs for social interaction. Indeed, some people place high value on solitude and generally need less interaction to avoid loneliness.

But there’s a caveat. “Social anhedonia” (markedly low interest in and reward from interpersonal connection) is associated with poor functioning.

Even people who don’t prefer solitude can get creative about fulfilling social needs when people aren’t around.

Humans tend to anthropomorphise (or perceive as human) non-human objects and animals when feeling lonely.

You might remember Wilson the volleyball from the movie Cast Away. Wilson kept the lead character company during his years being stranded on an island.

People can also remember past, or anticipate future, social interactions. This “social daydreaming” may help people cope when their friends and family are not around.

How About Awe And Pride?

Emotional experiences also likely have a role in pushing some contestants to endure longer. Others have written about the role of fear on the show (in a nutshell, fear has its place and isn’t to be avoided).

But research also points to the potential benefits of positive emotions in this situation, such as awe and pride.

Kate, contestant in Alone Australia, in Tasmanian wilderness
Will it be Kate? SBS TV

Natural environments are in no short supply for contestants on the show. In fact, nature is nearly all they see. And nature is a prime trigger of awe – the positive emotional experience when witnessing extraordinary things that are vast and complex.

Awe is linked to a variety of beneficial outcomes, including higher self-reported wellbeing, physical health, critical thinking and humility.

Most of us are familiar with pride – the emotional experience associated with achievement. Pride isn’t just felt upon attaining a goal, but also when making progress along the way.

Despite pride’s bad rap (for instance, as a deadly sin), my own research links the experience of pride to pursuing goals. People work harder at a goal when they’re feeling proud of earlier accomplishments.

One key to unlocking the benefits of positive emotions such as pride and awe is to mindfully find the opportunities to experience them. Specifically, savouring the moment is a documented strategy for intentionally increasing the experience of positive emotions such as awe and pride.

Are You A Future Alone Australia Winner?

If you’re thinking of applying for future seasons of Alone Australia, you might be wondering if you have what it takes.

Given time, you can build both your survival and psychological skills.

You can develop mental toughness, your capacity to combat loneliness while socially isolated, and your ability to savour positive emotions such as awe and pride.The Conversation

Lisa A Williams, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney

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

Who owned this Stone Age jewellery? New forensic tools offer an unprecedented answer

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Michelle LangleyGriffith University

An international team of researchers has recovered DNA from the owner of a deer-tooth pendant that was buried inside a remote Siberian cave for tens of thousands of years.

In research published in Nature, Elena Essel of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and colleagues detail how they developed a new technique to extract DNA left behind on an artefact.

In much the same way police solve crimes using “touch DNA” – DNA recovered from skin cells or trace bodily fluids left behind when somebody touches an object – archaeologists will now be able to recover genetic traces of ancient humans from the artefacts they left behind.

These traces will reveal the biological sex and genetic ancestry of the individual who once held or wore a particular artefact, allowing archaeologists to link genetic and cultural evidence as they attempt to unravel the deep past.

Prehistoric Artefacts And Touch DNA

When archaeologists find artefacts such as tools and ornaments at a site, it’s not easy to work out who used them.

Until now, we have had to rely on finding artefacts in “direct association” with buried people. That is, we could only link an individual to an ornament if we found them buried wearing it.

Even then, this funerary association isn’t always a guide to what happened in life. The dead are buried with things their community think they should have, which may not have been theirs when they were alive.

This new method of ancient DNA extraction provides a more direct way of determining who used specific items in everyday life.

A photo of a woman in clean-room gear holding a small bone object inside a perspex box.
Elena Essel working on the pierced deer tooth discovered at Denisova Cave. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The method can only be used for artefacts made from bone or tooth as these materials are porous and can soak up human DNA from repeated contact with bodily fluids (sweat, blood, saliva). Luckily, the bones and teeth of animals (and sometimes humans) were widely used throughout the past to create everyday tools, sacred items, and personal adornment.

These osseous artefacts were held in the hand or worn against the body for extended periods, resulting in sweat and other fluids soaking into their surfaces over time. As a result, the artefact records the genetic information of the wearer.

Through experimentation with different techniques, Essel and her team found a way to recover that DNA record in a form that is intact enough to be read.

Is This Yours?

Using this new method of DNA extraction, the researchers were able to extract a wealth of archaeological information from a single tooth pendant recovered from the famous archaeological site of Denisova Cave in Siberia.

The cave, tucked away in the foothills of the Altai mountains, has fascinated researchers for decades as its past inhabitants included not only Homo sapiens but also Neanderthals and another enigmatic extinct human species known as Denisovans.

A photo of the entrance to a cave in a tree-covered hill.
Over the millennia, Denisova Cave has been inhabited by Homo sapiens as well as our extinct cousins the Neanderthals and Denisovans. Richard G. Roberts

First, they were able to extract the DNA of the animal the tooth belonged to, a wapiti deer (Cervus canadensis).

They were then able to extract human DNA from the pores of the tooth and deduce that this DNA had come from a female individual whose ancestry is most similar to ancient people found further east in Siberia and with Native Americans.

They were also able to use the DNA data to estimate the date of the pendant’s creation, somewhere between 19,000 and 25,000 years ago. This date fits with previous radiocarbon dating of the layer of the cave floor sediment in which the artefact was found.

DNA found in soil, or “environmental DNA”, can also inform our understanding of who used an archaeological site such as Denisova Cave.

Without the extraction and analysis of the human DNA held in the tooth, archaeologists would have been able to tell what animal it had come from and how old it was. However, we could never have guessed the owner of this ornament. Now we can identify a specific individual.

Using the additional DNA information attached to individual artefacts, archaeologists will be able to create an understanding of past societies with a level of detail never before possible.The Conversation

Michelle Langley, Associate Professor of Archaeology, Griffith University

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

How King Charles III’s coronation robes – and other historical garments – are conserved

Leanne TonkinNottingham Trent University

Ahead of King Charles III’s coronation on May 6 2023, textile conservators based at Historic Royal Palaces are hard at work. For the occasion, the sovereign is set to don historic ceremonial robes, heavy with history and symbolism.

The first piece is the Supertunica, a full-length coat of golden silk, lined with red. It was designed for George V on the occasion of his coronation on June 22 1911 and subsequently worn by George VI in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Around his neck, the king will wear the Royal Stole, a thin band of golden silk generously embroidered with heraldry and foliage. And draped over his shoulders will be the Imperial Mantle.

This piece is part of our coverage of King Charles III’s coronation. The first coronation of a British monarch since 1953 comes at a time of reckoning for the monarchy, the royal family and the Commonwealth.

For more royal analysis, revisit our coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum jubilee, and her death in September 2022.

Created for George IV’s coronation in 1821 and referencing both priestly garments and Tudor designs, the mantel is an opulent cape, also red-lined, that pools on the floor, fringed with gold. It sports a pattern of embroidered crowns, eagles, roses, thistles, shamrock, fleur-de-lis and other foliage. And it fastens on the chest with an eagle-shaped clasp.

If you have ever travelled from afar to the Tower of London to see royal garments or the V&A to see historic fashions, you might have been frustrated at the low lighting, or the barriers in place which make taking a closer look difficult. Conserving textiles is all the more challenging when the textiles in question are not just to be displayed but also worn, as these coronation robes are. Conservators apply tremendous skill and knowledge to keep such items intact.

Designed To Last

Ahead of the big day, the king will have likely done some fittings. A garment designed for a 46-year-old in 1911 won’t necessarily fit a 75-year-old in 2023. So conservators will have suggested alterations to suit the king’s preferences. In concert with textile specialists, they might have applied hidden loops on the inside of the robes so they do not slip when worn.

When the royal coronation garments are not in active use, they are held in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at Historical Royal Palaces and Kensington Palace. This archive offers tangible evidence of dress worn by the royal family since the 18th century.

Conservators there work to identify and protect areas of weakness in the materials the garments are made of. They can be heavy in some areas, which makes the threads more fragile. This can stretch and damage the material, when not supported. Care is taken that elaborate decorations, mostly made with silk and precious-metal thread, like gold and silver, do not snag.

Traditional materials, like the gold silk used to make the coronation robes, are stronger and thus more durable – they can keep their shape and often their colour too. Ensuring this, however, involves thorough environmental monitoring to achieve optimum conditions – regular humidity levels, cool temperatures, low light levels. When transporting or otherwise handling historic textiles, you have to use materials that do not react chemically.

In contrast to these garments designed to last, pop culture treasures like the costumes held among the 80,000-piece collection of Bowie memorabilia the V&A recently acquired, present different challenges.

Conservators at the museum will now be tasked with tending to many of the artist’s memorable costumes: the 1972 Ziggy Stardust ensembles by Freddie Burretti; Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973; the Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover in 1997.

The kinds of modern materials used in these creations often degrade sooner rather than later, as amateur trainer collectors and professional trainer conservators alike know. Plastics and rubbers may start to degrade in less than 10 years, depending on when they were made, how they were manufactured and used.

Textile Stories

Despite this, fashion conservators do not consider modern fabrics of any less value than costly historic textiles. This is because new materials have often inspired designers to create new things. Polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride and synthetic rubber, developed in the early 20th century, gave artists different surfaces to work with, allowing for both glossy and matt looks. Bowie’s Kabuki jumpsuit, that Yamamoto designed for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour, is a prime example.

David Bowie in a black and white striped suit.
Bowie in Yamamoto’s kabuki jumpsuit. Ron Frazier/FlickrCC BY

Conserving a garment of historical importance isn’t only about the fabric and design, but the occasions when it was used. Conservators will thus also document, and in some cases preserve evidence that Bowie actually wore these clothes – even stains from his sweat. It’s about keeping the essence of Bowie during those iconic moments of his stage performances.

It is also about recording the link between the person who wore the garment and the designers. Yamamoto materialised Bowie’s vision of being, as curators Victoria Broaches and Geoffrey March once put it, “an alien rock messiah, leader of a band of space invaders”.

Preserving what conservators term “designer intent”, here, is crucial. Each item bears witness to how its creator’s ideas developed, their material choices and their creative engagement.

Similarly, the royal robes can show intended social and political changes through the history of how they have been repaired, adjusted or reworked, to suit the taste of each successive royal wearer.

Ensuring the survival of historic textile and dress artefacts allows stories and histories to be shared from generation to generation. As one curator has put it of Bowie’s many suits:

These were used costumes and they absolutely have lived lives, and they’re continuing to do so.

Bowie’s flowing white cape covered in Japanese kanji, also by Yamamoto, helped to stage his creative output. Similarly, the coronation robes mark, and frame, King Charles III as he embarks on his reign.The Conversation

Leanne Tonkin, , Nottingham Trent University

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

As digital activists, teens of color turn to social media to fight for a more just world

Self-expression and storytelling are among the primary objectives that young aspiring activists seek to achieve online. FG Trade via Getty Images
Dominique Skye McDanielKennesaw State University

When it comes to social media use among young people, very often the concern is about potential harm.

Parents, policymakers and others worry that online platforms like Instagram and TikTok may compromise children’s privacy, threaten their safetyundermine their mental health and make them susceptible to social media addiction and cyberbullying, among other problems.

Then there are the seemingly never-ending series of dangerous and deadly internet “challenges” – such as the “blackout challenge” and the “choking game” – that encourage kids and teens to record themselves performing perilous acts online.

While concerns about the potential pitfalls of social media platforms are valid and should be taken seriously, they can also overshadow some of the more positive ways that young people in general – and young people of color in particular – are using social media. As I found in my dissertation – “#OnlineLiteraciesMatter” – some young people are using social media to develop their identities as activists and to push for a more just society. In short, they are using social media platforms to engage in what I refer to as “digitized activism,” taking on issues such as systemic racism and seeking racial justice.

My study adds to a growing body of research that has found young people of color can bring about change when they learn to use digital tools to explore social issues and use those tools to stand up for their beliefs.

Fighting Online For Social Justice

For my study, I followed six young activists between the ages of 14 and 18 across the United States. I picked them through online recruitment efforts. I searched for various hashtags to find them, sent direct messages, or left comments on their posts to engage with them online.

Four of the teens identified as Black and two identified as Latina. I looked at their activism on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. All of the young activists used at least one of those social media platforms for various lengths of time – from one to six years.

Each young person in my research represented a case study. I interviewed each one. I also created my own social media accounts to observe their social media posts and engage with them in the same online spaces. I examined their social media posts over a period of three months.

They often reacted to what was going on at the time of the study, which I conducted in 2021 after the takeoff of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. As a result, they were concerned with social justice, civil unrest, police brutality and a global pandemic. They were also concerned with increased hardships experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse communities, which often are disproportionately affected by these issues.

The young people in my study addressed a variety of subjects. Some of the subjects they took on could be seen through the hashtags they used, such as #systemicracism, #climatejustice and #mentalhealth.

New Narratives

They also used social media to educate others through self-expression and to challenge what they saw as society’s negative views of young people. They placed a major emphasis on storytelling, as evidenced in hashtags such as #blackstoriesmatter, #teenwriter and #blackwriter. An overarching theme was a push for change. Their identities were reflected in hashtags such as #blackyouthvisionaries and #changemakers. They made clear that they see social media as a way to represent their values.

“Everything I do online is a reflection of the person I am, and I always want that image to be true to myself,” 18-year-old Laura told me in an interview. I used pseudonyms for all of the young people in my study. “Anyone who has been in a classroom or organization with me knows that I am outspoken and I always need to offer perspectives that I think are crucial to a discussion relating to social justice and I do the same online. Everything I post is a show of my values.”

Higher education appeared regularly in the young people’s self-expression and activism.

For instance, Samirah X., age 14, told me how she was inspired by the protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd to write a script for a movie called “You Change.”

“I take acting very seriously and enrolled in classes at a local community college – Introduction to Filmmaking, where I studied directors, and Screenwriting, where I learned basic screenwriting skills like formatting, developing characters, and their motives,” Samirah told me.

A young African American girl looks toward the camera as she sits at a laptop wearing a pair of blue headphones and a green headband.
Teens often turn to social media for creativity and self-expression. marieclaudelemay via Getty Images

Laura, the 18-year-old, tweeted about how her posts about her college classes “are pretty insightful and really push my classmates to challenge their current ways of thinking and I’m really proud of myself for that.”

As young people of color, they stressed the need to infuse their concerns into broader causes that don’t always take communities of color into account.

“The climate justice movement cannot just be advocating for preservation of parks and saving endangered species. It must be Intersectional,” Laura wrote in an Instagram post. “We have to recognize that Black and brown communities worldwide are being disproportionately disadvantaged because of air and water pollution, food insecurity, and more.”

What Matters Most

Sometimes, they used simple statements to call attention to the issues they see as being of paramount concern.

One of the teens in my study wrote simply:

My mental health matters

My representation matters

My music matters

My joy matters

My art matters

My future matters.

The teens made clear that they believe in the urgency of taking action now.

“With this generation, we are not going to wait, if we are tired, we are going to work for it, if we want something to happen we will work on it,” 16-year-old Dakari wrote in a post on YouTube and Instagram. “Stubborn, we don’t want to wait until we are older to do stuff.”The Conversation

Dominique Skye McDaniel, Assistant Professor of English Education, Kennesaw State University

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

How archaeologists reconstructed a Roman gateway to tell the story of Britain’s invasion

Simon Esmonde ClearyUniversity of Birmingham

Visitors to Richborough Roman fort near Sandwich in east Kent will now find a major new addition to the site: a reconstructed Roman fort gateway in timber, flanked by stretches of an earthwork rampart.

The gate has been built on the site of an actual Roman gateway, thought to date to the invasion of Britain in AD43 under the emperor Claudius. Recent re-excavation revealed the emplacements of the post-holes housing the uprights of the gate, inside a pair of north-south defensive ditches.

Footage of the reconstruction of the gateway.

The soil from these ditches would have been mounded up to create an earth rampart. These would have been a formidable defensive obstacle and typical of Roman military engineering of the first century AD.

Roman military defences normally enclosed a rectangular area for a camp or fort. The Richborough defences are odd in that they do not do that, but instead cut off a long stretch of land along the shore on the eastern side of the site.

Their full length to the north and south is unknown and much land to their east has undoubtedly been lost to erosion and the construction of the railway.

What Was The Purpose Of The Gateway And Defences?

The defences look to be designed to secure a length of shoreline, leading historians to suggest that they were temporary defences for a beachhead.

The pottery from the very bottom of the ditches (therefore close in date to their digging) dates to the middle of the first century AD, so they have long been thought to be defending the beachhead for the Claudian invasion force.

This force consisted of four legions of heavy infantry (some 20,000 men) along with a probably equivalent number of auxiliary troops, cavalry and light infantry. Such a force would have needed a very large beachhead secure area, to say nothing of anchorage for all the transports for the men, horses and supplies which sailed from the invasion base at Boulogne.

At the time of the invasion, the Isle of Thanet really was an island and between it and the Kent coast was the Wantsum Channel (now long since silted up, turning Thanet into a peninsula). Richborough lay on the Kentish shore of the Wantsum, with a sheltered area for an anchorage or for beaching ships at the bottom of the sea cliff.

The model for the new gate structure is one carved on Trajan’s Column in Rome. The column commemorates the emperor Trajan’s conquest of Dacia (modern Romania) in the opening years of the second century AD, some 60 years after Claudius’ invasion of Britain.

Trajan’s Column in Rome, a tall engraved column with a bronze figure at the top.
Trajan’s Column in Rome. Livio AndronicoCC BY-SA

The monument was decorated with scenes showing the campaigns, with one showing Roman soldiers building a fort. The gate structure shown is one of the few pieces of evidence historians have for what these timber gateways may have looked like, since normally they have long since been demolished or rotted away.

Though the scenes are very immediate and vivid, there are problems with them. The column was a propaganda piece, sculpted in marble and set up hundreds of miles from where the fighting took place, so there was quite a bit of artistic licence involved.

For instance, in this scene, the fortifications (which would have been of earth and turf and timber) are shown as if they were of masonry. Realism has been abandoned in favour of effect.

There are also problems in practical terms. The structure recreated in Richborough would have been open to the elements, fine in the campaigning season in Dacia but not very practical in a Kentish winter, with a wind off the North Sea whistling around the sentries’ subligacula (undergarments).

An enclosed, boarded structure would have been much more conducive to military effectiveness.

Understanding Richborough’s Significance

Richborough remained an important entry point to Britain throughout the Roman period. Remains from nearly four centuries are now visible at the site, making it difficult for visitors to understand.

As well as the Claudian ditches, there is the huge concrete base for a four-way arch built in the late first century or later to commemorate the acquisition of Britannia. Originally sheathed in white Carrara marble from Italy (only fragments survive), it has an inscription in gilt bronze letters.

After the army moved on, Richborough became a major port with, among other things, an amphitheatre, also recently excavated. In the third century the site was refortified, initially by triple ditches around the base of the arch, then with the impressive stone walls.

In the fourth century it was part of a system of forts from Brancaster in Norfolk to Portchester in Hampshire, known to the Romans as the “Saxon shore”, to keep the seaways safe.

These layers of historic developments make Richborough a complex site to understand and the ditches of the Claudian beachhead have long been overshadowed by the later remains. This new initiative by English Heritage should bring one of the most significant monuments of Roman Britain out of the shadows.The Conversation

Simon Esmonde Cleary, Emeritus Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of Birmingham

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

Book Of The Month - May 2023: Angela's Ashes, A Memoir by Frank McCourt

Published: 1996

A Pulitzer Prize'winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy'exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling'does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbours' yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Community Celebration In Memory Of Bob Grace - All Welcome 

Friends, family and past constituents of former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace are invited to join members of the Protect Pittwater Association for a community celebration of his life on Monday May 15, 7.30pm, at the Avalon Bowlo.
Bob’s commitment to Pittwater was unquestionable, first as a Warringah councillor, then with the newly seceded Pittwater Council, and finally after the council amalgamations of 2016, as one of the founders of the demerger group, Protect Pittwater.
His generosity and support for clubs and within the community was also legendary, amongst them, Avalon Bulldogs Rugby League Club, Whale Beach SLSC, Palm Beach Golf Club and Elanora Country Club.
Please bring your memories of Bob and have a drink with us to celebrate his contribution to our community!
RSVP: by May 8, 2023

Slowing Down In Your Old Age? It May Be A Dementia Warning Sign

May 1, 2023
It's generally accepted we will lose muscle strength and slow down as we age, making it more difficult to perform simple tasks such as getting up, walking and sitting down. But new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research indicates this could also be a signal for another sinister health concern of ageing: late-life dementia.

To investigate the relationship between muscle function and dementia, the research teams from ECU's Nutrition & Health Innovation Research Institute and Centre for Precision Health used data from the Perth Longitudinal Study of Ageing in Women to examine more than 1000 women with an average age of 75.

In collaboration with the University of Western Australia, the team measured the women's grip strength and the time it took for them to rise from a chair, walk three metres, turn around and sit back down -- known as a timed-up-and-go (TUG), test.

These tests were repeated after five years to monitor any loss of performance.

Over the next 15 years, almost 17 per cent of women involved in the study were found to have had a dementia event, categorised as a dementia-related hospitalisation or death.

The team found lower grip strength and slower TUG were significant risk factors for presenting with dementia, independent of genetic risk and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity levels.

Relationship established
The women with the weakest grip strength were found to be more than twice as likely to have a late-life dementia event than the strongest individuals.

A similar relationship emerged between TUG performance and dementia, with the slowest in their TUG test more than twice as likely to experience dementia than the quickest.

When researchers looked at the changes in grip strength and TUG test results after five years, a decrease in performance was also linked with greater dementia risk.

Those who had experienced the biggest decline in grip strength and TUG speed were approximately 2 and 2.5 times more likely, respectively, to have had a dementia event, compared to those in the group who recorded the smallest decline in performance.

Women with the biggest drop in TUG performance were found to be over four times more likely to have a dementia-related death than the fastest.

An early warning
Senior researcher Dr Marc Sim said grip strength, which can be easily measured using a handheld device known as a dynamometer, may be a measure of brain health due to the overlapping nature of cognitive and motor decline.

"Possibly due to a range of underlying similarities, grip strength may also present as a

surrogate measure of cardiovascular disease, inflammation and frailty, which are known risk factors for dementia," Dr Sim said.

Dr Sim said the findings from the study could help health professionals to identify dementia risk in patients earlier.

"Both grip strength and TUG tests aren't commonly performed in clinical practice, but both are inexpensive and simple screening tools," he said.

"Incorporating muscle function tests as part of dementia screening could be useful to identify high-risk individuals, who might then benefit from primary prevention programs aimed at preventing the onset of the condition such as a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle.

"The exciting findings were that decline in these measures was associated with substantially higher risk, suggesting that if we can halt this decline, we may be able to prevent late-life dementias. However, further research is needed in this area."

Centre for Precision Health Director Professor Simon Laws said there has been encouraging progress in identifying early warning signs of dementia.

"We are now starting to see a number of simple yet indicative screening assessments that could be combined with other biological and clinical measures to provide a holistic risk-profile for individuals presenting to their GP with, for example, memory concerns," he said.

'Impaired muscle function, including its decline, is related to greater long-term late-life dementia risk in older women' was published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle.

Simone Radavelli‐Bagatini, Helen Macpherson, David Scott, Robin M. Daly, Jonathan M. Hodgson, Simon M. Laws, Kun Zhu, Richard L. Prince, Joshua R. Lewis, Marc Sim. Impaired muscle function, including its decline, is related to greater long‐term late‐life dementia risk in older women. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 2023; DOI: 10.1002/jcsm.13227

Payday Super A Boost For Retirement Incomes: COTA

May 2, 2023
Paying super contributions on pay day is a simple fix that will benefit workers and improve retirement savings for older Australians, COTA Australia – the peak advocacy organisation for older Australians – says. 

The Federal Government today announced that from 1 July 2026, employers will be required to pay their employees’ super at the same time as their salary and wages. 

COTA Australia Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, says the change, which COTA has long advocated for, will strengthen Australia’s superannuation system. 

“This simple change will see workers better off when they reach retirement,” Ms Sparrow says. 

“Everyone deserves to live comfortably in retirement and while of course this won’t solve all the problems people face when it comes to retirement income, it’s certainly a very sensible step forward.

“Paying superannuation infrequently leads to people ending up with less in their accounts when they reach retirement and we know that it is women and those in casual, lower-paid work who are hit hardest by that. 

“This will make it much simpler for workers to keep track of their super and help ensure people can live the life they deserve in retirement. 

“It is another step towards ensuring that superannuation is paid on every dollar earned.” Ms Sparrow said it’s also good to see increased resources to ensure the ATO can better detect unpaid super contributions.

Stress Increases Alzheimer's Risk In Female Mice But Not Males

May 2, 2023
Women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Some of that is age; in the U.S., women outlive men by five to six years, and advanced age is the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer's. But there's more to it than that, so Alzheimer's researchers continue to look for other reasons why women have an elevated risk of the deadly neurodegenerative disease.

Stress may be one such reason. A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the effect stress has on the brain differs by sex, at least in mice. In stressful situations, levels of the Alzheimer's protein amyloid beta rises sharply in the brains of females but not males. In addition, the researchers identified a molecular pathway that is active in brain cells from female mice but not male mice, and showed that it accounts for the divergent responses to stress.

The findings, published May 2 in Brain, add to a growing collection of evidence that sex matters in health and disease. From cancer to heart disease to arthritis, scientists have found differences between males and females that could potentially affect how men and women respond to efforts to prevent or treat chronic diseases.

"How women respond to stress versus how men respond to stress is an important area of research that has implications for not just Alzheimer's disease but other conditions, too," said co-corresponding author Carla M. Yuede, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry. "In recent years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has prioritized understanding sex differences in medicine. Stress is one area in which you can clearly see a difference between males and females. This study shows that reducing stress may be more beneficial for women than men, in terms of lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease."

Stress falls into the category of socioeconomic risk factors, along with factors such as depression and social isolation, that together account for an estimated 8% of the risk of developing Alzheimer's. That risk calculation, however, doesn't take gender into account. Women consistently report higher levels of stress than men, and stress affects women's bodies differently than men's in many ways, such as cardiovascular health, immune responses and other issues.

Corresponding author John Cirrito, PhD, an associate professor of neurology; Yuede; and first author Hannah Edwards, a graduate student in Cirrito's lab, reasoned that stress also may affect women's brains differently than men's, and these differences may help explain the sex imbalance in Alzheimer's disease.

To find out, they measured levels of amyloid beta -- a key Alzheimer's protein -- in the brains of mice every hour for 22 hours, beginning eight hours before the mice experienced stress. The experience was equally stressful for male and female mice, as measured by the levels of stress hormones in their blood. But the responses in their brains were not the same.

In female mice, amyloid beta levels rose significantly within the first two hours and stayed elevated through the end of the monitoring period. In male mice, brain amyloid levels did not change overall, although about 20% of them did show a delayed and weak rise in amyloid levels.

Further experiments revealed that the difference comes down to a cellular stress response pathway in brain cells. Stress causes the release of a hormone known as corticotropin releasing factor. Neurons from female rodents take up the stress hormone, triggering a cascade of events that results in increasing levels of amyloid beta in the brain. In contrast, neurons from male rodents lack the ability to take up the stress hormone. It is not known whether there are similar sex differences in how human neurons take up stress hormones.

"There's a fundamental biological difference between males and females in how they respond to stress at the cellular level, in both mice and people," Cirrito said. "We don't think that stress is the sole factor driving the sex difference in Alzheimer's disease. There are many other differences between men and women -- in hormones, lifestyle, other diseases they have -- that undoubtedly contribute in some way. But that stress is driving one aspect of this sex difference I think is very likely."

Hannah M Edwards, Clare E Wallace, Woodrow D Gardiner, Brookelyn M Doherty, Ryan T Harrigan, Kayla M Yuede, Carla M Yuede, John R Cirrito. Sex-dependent effects of acute stress on amyloid-β in male and female mice. Brain, 2023; DOI: 10.1093/brain/awad052

Australia’s Gift To Mark The Coronation

May 3, 2023
Statement by the Prime Minister  of Australia, The Hon. Anthony Albanese
On behalf of the people of Australia, the Australian Government will make a national contribution of $10,000 to Western Australian charity Friends of the Western Ground Parrot in honour of The King’s Coronation.

This contribution will go towards the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot, a rare and critically endangered bird found in the remote Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve, to the east of Esperance.

The Western Ground Parrot is shy and rarely seen, as they spend most of their time on the ground in low dense heathland.

It is estimated that there are only 150 Western Ground Parrots remaining. In recent years, bushfires have impacted their known habitat which has threatened the last wild population.

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc. is a registered charity that supports conservation of this rare Australian parrot. They raise funds for recovery and awareness projects, including monitoring and translocations to create a secure second wild population.

Past contributions to mark significant Royal occasions have supported the conservation of the Bilby, Mountain Pygmy Possum, Numbat and Koala.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “His Majesty King Charles III has long championed conservation and sustainability, so I am pleased to mark his Coronation with a national contribution to the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot.”

“Known as Kyloring by the Noongar people, the Western Ground Parrot is listed as critically endangered. This contribution will complement other conservation efforts underway to protect the Kyloring.”

Website: Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc at:

Western ground parrots live and nest on the ground, making them very vulnerable to foxes and cats. Photo: Alan Danks/DBCA

Star Ratings System Working To Improve Aged Care

May 3, 2023
The first update of the Albanese Government’s aged care Star Ratings initiative reveals an extra 41 services received 4 and 5 stars. This means an increase in residential providers delivering care at ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ quality.

The October to December quarter update shows aged care homes are maintaining consistency in the quality of the care they are providing.

Encouragingly, the number of services receiving 1 and 2 stars has reduced by more than a third since Star Ratings was launched in December, decreasing from 8% to 5% of all providers needing to improve their care.

Since its introduction in December 2022, the Star Ratings system has offered a previously unavailable insight into the quality of care delivered by individual residential aged care homes.

Residential services are allocated an Overall Star Rating based on 4 sub-category ratings – Residents’ Experience, Compliance, Staffing and Quality Measures.
Star Ratings are dynamic, with compliance results updated daily.
This first major update reflects reported data from the October – December quarter informing 2 of the 4 sub-category ratings – Staffing and Quality Measures.
Star Ratings is informed by data collected by the Department of Health and Aged Care and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission across a number of critical areas including direct feedback from residents, the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program, and compliance assessments.

What Star Ratings tell us right now
The quarterly update shows that the majority of aged care homes meet or exceed the level of care expected – with 41% receiving 4 or 5 stars.

However, it also shows that 5% of services are still falling short – with 125 services receiving just 1 or 2 stars.
  • 54 services (2%) achieved 5 stars (excellent)
  • 964 services (39%) achieved 4 stars (good)
  • 1,357 services (54%) received 3 stars (acceptable)
  • 119 services (5%) received 2 stars (improvement required)
  • 6 services (0%) received 1 star (significant improvement required).
What’s changed
  • There are 13 fewer services with a 1 star than the previous quarter.
  • There are 7 more services with 4 stars and 34 more with 5 stars this quarter.
Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells said, “I’m pleased we’re seeing incremental improvements in the ratings but there’s a lot more work to be done in aged care.

“I encourage providers to continue to look at ways they can improve the care they offer.

“Star Ratings offers insider access for the first time to those it impacts most – older people and their families.

“Everyone can now check how a particular service is performing and use that knowledge to make choices about the best residential care for themselves or their loved one.

“Star Ratings helps providers identify areas where they need to improve – and to monitor that improvement over time.

“I encourage all providers to visit the department’s website today and download a copy of the Star Ratings Improvement Manual.

“This guide offers practical examples to help you plan, implement and assess quality improvement activities in your facilities and lift the quality of care for your residents.”

Osteoarthritis Sufferers Swing Their Way To Better Health

Golf is acknowledged as a sport allowing players to blow off steam and enjoy the outdoors, but a new study led by the University of South Australia shows it may have serious benefits for people with chronic disease osteoarthritis.

UNISA researcher Dr Brad Stenner from the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA) and a team of academics from Australia and the UK found that golfers with the degenerative condition experience lower psychological distress and better general health compared to the general population.

The same was found with golfers without osteoarthritis. The findings are reported in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Osteoarthritis affects more than two million Australians who suffer joint pain and stiffness most commonly in their hands, neck, lower back, knees, or hips, contributing to a lower likelihood of meeting physical exercise guidelines.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, the leading cause of chronic pain and the second most common cause of disability.

In a survey of 459 golfers with osteoarthritis more than 90% of participants rated their health as good, very good or excellent, compared to just 64% of the general population with the condition.

Almost three times as many non-golfers (22%) reported high to very high levels of psychological distress compared to golfers with osteoarthritis (8%).

Dr Stenner, a lecturer and occupational therapist, says regular golfers are kept active due to the amount of walking required and they can also experience a range of social benefits.

“People who play golf are often walking 8-10km per round and, as such, are regularly meeting or exceeding recommended physical activity guidelines, which is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and improve metabolic and respiratory health,” he says.

“There are also significant benefits to mental health and wellbeing.

“Our research has highlighted the important role that golf has in building friendships, contributing to community, and bringing a sense of belonging, all of which are known to contribute to mental health and wellbeing.”

Staying active and exercising regularly is one of the most important aspects of managing osteoarthritis.

“Lower impact activity such as golf can assist in maintaining activity whereas higher impact activities such as running, jogging and gym may place significant stress on the joints, contributing to increased symptoms and pain,” Dr Stenner says.

“There is a growing body of evidence that golf reduces the risk of many chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and may contribute to the management of these illnesses, which in turn may lower the longer term health and medical costs.

“From a mental health point of view, playing golf is associated with improved wellbeing and lower levels of psychological distress, and this is an important consideration for older adults.”

Dr Stenner says there is a gap in the known literature on the topic despite it being one of the most popular sporting activities for older adults.

“Very little is known about the relationship between golf and health and there is so much more we need to find out,” he says.
The study was undertaken by researchers from the University of South Australia, University of Dundee, University of Oxford, University of Melbourne and University College London.

Air Pollution May Increase Risk Of Dementia

May 2, 2023
Three years ago, an international study commissioned by the journal Lancet listed 12 modifiable factors that increased the risk of dementia, including three new ones: excessive alcohol, head injury and air pollution.

Writing in the May 2, 2023 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, a team of researchers, led by scientists at University of California San Diego, further elaborate on how exposure to the last of those new factors -- ambient air pollution, such as car exhaust and power plant emissions -- is associated with a measurably greater risk of developing dementia over time.

Senior author William S. Kremen, PhD, professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Center for Behavior Genetics of Aging at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues examined baseline cognitive assessments of approximately 1,100 men participating in the ongoing Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging. Average baseline age was 56, with 12 years of follow up.

They additionally looked at measures of exposure to particular matter (PM2.5) in the air and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is created when fossil fuels are burned, and assessments of episodic memory, executive function, verbal fluency, brain processing speed and APOE genotype.

APOE is a gene that provides instructions for making a protein crucial to the transport of cholesterol and other fats in the bloodstream. One version or allele of APOE called APOE-4 has been identified as a strong risk factor gene for Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers found that participants with higher levels of exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 in their 40s and 50s displayed worse cognitive functioning in verbal fluency from age 56 to 68. And persons with the APOE-4 allele appeared even more sensitive, with those exposed to higher PM2.5 levels showing worse outcomes for executive function and those with higher NO2 exposure showing worse outcomes involving episodic memory.

Executive function refers to higher-level cognitive skills used to plan, control and coordinate mental behaviors and acts. Episodic memory is the ability to recall and re-experience distinct, specific past events.

"The 2020 Lancet report concluded that modifying 12 risk factors, which include others like education and depression at midlife, could reduce dementia incidence by as much as 40%," said first author Carol E. Franz, PhD, professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Center for Behavior Genetics of Aging.

"That report placed ambient air pollution as a greater risk for Alzheimer's and related dementias than diabetes, physical activity, hypertension, alcohol consumption and obesity. Our findings underscore the importance of identifying modifiable risk factors as early in life as possible -- and that the processes by which air pollution affects risk for later-life cognitive decline begins earlier than previous studies suggest."

Co-authors include: Daniel E. Gustavson, University of Colorado Boulder; Jeremy A. Elman, Christine Fennema-Notestine, Donald J. Hagler, Jr., Xin M. Tu, Tsung-Chin Wu and Nathan Whitsell, all at UC San Diego; Aaron Baraff, VA Puget Sound Health Care, Seattle; Jaden DeAnda, UC San Diego and San Dieog State University; Asad Beck and Joel D. Kaufman, University of Washington; Caleb E. Finch and Jiu-Chiuan Chen, University of Southern California; and Michael J. Lyons, Boston University.

Carol E. Franz, Daniel E. Gustavson, Jeremy A. Elman, Christine Fennema-Notestine, Donald J. Hagler Jr., Aaron Baraff, Xin M. Tu, Tsung-Chin Wu, Jaden De Anda, Asad Beck, Joel D. Kaufman, Nathan Whitsel, Caleb E. Finch, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Michael J. Lyons, William S. Kremen. Associations Between Ambient Air Pollution and Cognitive Abilities from Midlife to Early Old Age: Modification by APOE Genotype. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2023; 1 DOI: 10.3233/jad-221054

‘Got polio?’ messaging underscores a vaccine campaign’s success but creates false sense of security as memories of the disease fade in US

For much of the 20th century, Americans were used to seeing people bearing the signs of past polio infection. Genevieve Naylor/Corbis via Getty Images
Katherine A. FossMiddle Tennessee State University

Got Polio? Me neither. Thanks, Science.

Messages like this are used in memes, posters, T-shirts and even some billboards to promote routine vaccinations. As this catchy statement reminds people of once-feared diseases of the past, it – perhaps unintentionally – conveys the message that polio has been relegated to the history books.

Leonardo DiCaprio meme 'Remember that time you got polio? Nope? Me neither? Thanks Science!'
This pro-science message uses a popular ‘cheers’ meme format.

Phrasing that aims to encourage immunizations by highlighting their accomplishments implies that some diseases are no longer a threat.

Few people today know much about polio. In 2022, only one-third of surveyed adults in the U.S. were aware that polio has no cure. Moreover, a 2020 poll had found that 84% of adults viewed vaccinating children as important, a 10% decline from 2001. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified anti-vaccination messaging, while also delaying routine immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are far from eradicated. Measles outbreaks in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated American communities have begun resurfacing in the past few years, despite a 2000 declaration that the virus had been eliminated in the U.S. Pertussis cases have been on the rise, with more than 18,000 cases reported in 2019. And in July 2022, polio reappeared in an unvaccinated New York man – the first U.S. diagnosis since 1979. This case helped return attention to polio, causing at least some young adults to wonder about their own vaccination status.

A shift in focus to immunization in developing countries has further lulled Americans into a false sense of security. While global approaches have been effective and are certainly needed, as the author of “Constructing the Outbreak: Epidemics in Media and Collective Memory,” I suggest that the celebratory messaging is no longer as effective as it once was and runs the risk of making it seem as if polio only lives in history books.

semicircle of patients in iron lungs use mirrors to watch a TV
Polio patients at Baltimore’s Children’s Hospital watched television from inside the iron lungs that breathed for them. Bettmann via Getty Images

Campaigning Against A Devastating Disease

Before vaccines, polio – called infantile paralysis or poliomyelitis – was the most feared childhood disease in the U.S. Frequently affecting elementary school kids, the disease sometimes presented like a cold or flu – fever, sore throat and headache. In other cases, limb or spinal pain and numbness first indicated that something was wrong. Paralysis of legs, arms, neck, diaphragm or a combination could occur and, depending on the area affected, render patients unable to walk, lift their arms, or breathe outside of an iron lung.

magazine add with images of kids with polio asks for donations
Full page ads like this one from 1953 solicited funds to help polio patients. March of Dimes

Only time could reveal whether the paralysis was permanent or would recede, sometimes to return decades later as Post-Polio Syndrome. Enough people were infected in outbreaks in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s that the effects of paralytic polio were quite visible in everyday life in the form of braces, crutches, slings and other mobility devices.

Thanks to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, beating polio became a national priority. The NFIP grew out of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Warm Springs Foundation. Roosevelt himself had been partially paralyzed by polio, and the NFIP provided funds for public education, research and survivors’ rehabilitation.

Eleanor Roosevelt smiles with a young boy holding a 'Mothers March on Polio' scroll
Eleanor Roosevelt helped inaugurate the Mothers’ March on Polio to raise money to fight the disease. Bettmann/CORBIS via Getty Images

Its campaigns were prolific and diverse, combining interpersonal and mass communication strategies.

From FDR “Birthday Ball” celebrations to parades and elementary school fundraising competitions, various groups raised money. High schoolers performed polio-themed plays, putting the disease itself on trial in “The People vs. Polio.” People passed around collection boxes at movie theaters and other public gatherings.

text of three 'I will not' and 'I will' points
An ad placed in Vogue in 1952 laid out the ‘Polio Pledge.’ National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis

Campaigns used every medium. Brochures and short films raised awareness of the threat of polio, emphasizing the need for funding to support patient rehabilitation and scientific research. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis generated scores of radio scripts and hired Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and other famous voices to read them. Judy Garland, Mickey RooneyLucille Ball and other Hollywood stars also joined the fight. Comic strips and cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck rallied for March of Dimes funds to help polio patients.

Starting in 1946, the NFIP featured children with crutches and braces who had survived polio as “poster children” asking for funds to help them walk again. News stories covered outbreaks and polio epidemics, detailing the devastation of the disease on individuals, families and communities, while advising families how to reduce risk through the “Polio Pledge for Parents,” which provided a list of do’s and don'ts during summer months.

From Public Enemy No. 1 To Success Story

The work of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis yielded unprecedented and continuous success, providing hospitals with equipment during epidemics and supporting the development of vaccines. Following the largest vaccine trial in history, on April 12, 1955, the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center announced that Jonas Salk’s vaccine was 80%-90% effective against paralytic polio and officially ready for general use.

families in line outside a school with a sign 'Entrance for polio shots' in 1955
Once a vaccine was available, people lined up to protect themselves and their families from the virus. Bettmann via Getty Images

Over the next decade, the NFIP shifted its focus to widespread immunization, again using both mass media and local campaigns. With Salk’s vaccine, and then Albert Sabin’s, polio cases fell quickly, from the peak of 57,879 cases in 1952 to only 72 cases in 1965, with the last naturally occurring U.S. case in 1979.

The repeated declaration of what polio vaccines could and were accomplishing was strategically effective in persuading more people to get their shots. The American public of the 1960s and 1970s had lived through repeated polio epidemics and knew both the fear of contracting the disease and its visible aftereffects. As of 2021, 92.7% of Americans were fully protected by the vaccine, though these rates have been in decline since 2010 and fluctuate by region.

Public health rhetoric that focused on this vaccine success story worked around the world in the late 1980s and 1990s. Gradually, though, the perceived threat in the U.S. of polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases dissipated over generations as vaccinations largely eliminated the risk. Most people in developed countries lack firsthand experiences of just how terrifying these diseases are, having never experienced polio, diphtheria, measles or pertussis, or lost family members to them.

At the same time that polio has been largely forgotten in the U.S., anti-vaccination messages have been spreading disinformation that distorts the risk of vaccines, ignoring the realities of the diseases they immunize against.

Rhetoric from polio vaccine campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s emphasized the risks of not getting immunized – acute illness, life-changing pain and paralysis or even death. In the 21st century U.S., immunization campaigns no longer emphasize these risks, and it’s easy to forget the potentially deadly repercussions of skipping vaccines.

I believe pervasive public health messaging can counter anti-vaccination disinformation. A reminder for the American public about this still dangerous disease can help ensure that “Got Polio?” does not become a serious question.The Conversation

Katherine A. Foss, Professor of Media Studies, Middle Tennessee State University

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

Stephen Hawking’s final, god’s-eye view of the cosmos ponders the ultimate origin of our universe

Stephen Hawking pictured in 2016. Jason Szenes/EPA
Geraint LewisUniversity of Sydney

In the public’s mind, Stephen Hawking is a giant of 20th century science. He burst onto the popular stage with the 1988 publication of A Brief History of Time, which presented his esoteric ideas of evaporating black holes and the birth of the universe. It was an international bestseller, but given the complexity of its ideas, A Brief History has been called the most unread book of all time.

Hawking continued to explore the fundamental nature of the universe until his death in 2018. In a new book, On The Origin of Time, Belgian physicist Thomas Hertog unravels Hawking’s final theory, which focuses upon one of the biggest questions of all – just why our universe is the way it is.

Review: On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory – Thomas Hertog (Penguin Random House)

Hertog is no passive player in this story, having been a student and collaborator of Hawking. He is, instead, an active participant. Intriguingly, as Hertog explains, we are all active participants in Hawking’s final theory, shaping the universe by observing it.

In this new book, Hertog tells us that Hawking’s final theory tries to address one of the deep mysteries of the universe, something known as the problem of cosmological fine-tuning.

Cosmologists have realised that the more they peer at the underlying nature of the universe (for instance the strengths of fundamental forces and the masses of fundamental particles), the more the cosmos seems tuned for our existence.

If the universe had been born with slightly different values for these fundamental properties, it would be dead and sterile, lacking the complexity and energy essential for life.

For some, the solution to cosmological fine-tuning lies in the multiverse, the idea that our universe is just one of countless others. Our universe, and all the others, crystallise out of a bout of eternal inflation, a super-energetic cosmic expansion. Each individual universe, at birth, is written with its own unique laws of physics. Most of these universes in the multiverse are dead, but our cosmic home won the physics lottery. We, unsurprisingly, find ourselves in a universe that can host life.

However, as Hertog writes in this new book, Hawking dismissed the multiverse and went on the hunt for an alternative solution to cosmic fine-tuning.

The cosmos seems tuned to our existence. Shutterstock. Elements furnished by NASA.

Familiar Ground

To get to this point, Hertog treads some very familiar ground, discussing the history of modern cosmological ideas. This includes the theoretical groundwork of Albert Einstein and Georges Lemaitre, and the observational insights of Edwin Hubble that revealed the expansion of the universe.

Hertog interweaves the story with the development, over the 20th century, of that other great pillar of physics, the strange behaviour in the world of the quantum, where the deterministic world of Isaac Newton, in which things have precise locations at precise times, is replaced by a fuzzy world of probabilities and uncertainties.

Usually we think of quantum mechanics describing the subatomic world, of electrons and atoms, but Hawking was thinking of the entire universe as a quantum system. The tale is brought up to date with the idea of cosmic inflation in the earliest instances of the universe and the surprising discovery of the dominance of dark energy in the closing years of the last century.

Hawking’s own story is similarly interwoven in the book including his revelation that black holes are not truly black.

Combining Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which dictates the space-time curvature of a black hole, with quantum field theory, which describes the strange, ephemeral nature of seemingly empty space, Hawking showed that black holes actually radiate. Through this dribble of energy, black holes steadily evaporate into an eventual nothingness.

But if you are looking for an accurate description of just how Hawking’s idea of black hole radiation operates, unfortunately Hertog relies on the same flawed picture of particles popping into existence at the edge of the hole as Hawking presented in A Brief History of Time.

A copy of A Brief History of Time featuring a thumbprint of its author at an auction at Christie’s London in 2018. Neil Hall/AAP

Hertog also tells us that Hawking explored the state of the universe at the very beginning, arguing that at this initial point, at least in terms of general relativity, the density of stuff in the universe must have been infinite, (this idea is formally known as a singularity).

Hawking returned to this question with physicist Jim Hartle in the early 1980s to try and wrap quantum mechanics into the picture. Hartle and Hawking claimed that if you wind the universe back to the beginning, time loses its distinct nature and effectively becomes space. With this no boundary hypothesis, the universe did not have an origin, not at least one we would ever really understand.

A Subtle Argument

Hawking’s motivation for disliking the multiverse is a somewhat subtle argument, built on the idea of the anthropic principle, the fact that we should not be surprised to find ourselves in a universe which allows us to be here.

Hertog tells us that we should be, in some sense, typical of the possible observers who could inhabit the universes in the multiverse. But quite what typical means is a complicated topic. Does it mean that other life in other universes should be like life on Earth? Or typical in a more broader sense, that life should be composed of the same elements as us? Typical can be judged on many different criteria. And how will we ever find out how typical we are if we are forever limited to the observations of our one universe?

To posit an alternative solution, Hawking’s first step was to upend the approach to understanding the universe.

The goal of modern science has been to unravel the fundamental operations of the universe and use these to predict how physical systems evolve. To do this, we need more than the laws of physics, but we need to know the starting point, the boundary conditions. But for a universe emerging from the strange singular state at its origin, where infinities abound, just what are these boundary conditions, and do they uniquely define the universe we inhabit?

Hertog explains that he and Hawking adopted a different view, a top-down view of the universe. Quantum mechanics is again wrapped into the picture, and the life of the universe is treated as a quantum system, described in terms of possibilities and probabilities.

It is here that Hugh Everett III’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics makes its appearance. According to Everett, all of the possible outcomes of a quantum experiment play out in parallel existences, and it is this notion that Hawking applies to the universe.

Within this final theory, as expressed by Hertog, the observer now plays a central role. The fact that we all exist and observe the world around it, means we participate in shaping the universe we appear to inhabit.

Of all of the possible histories of the universe that could potentially exist in a sea of parallel universes, the fact that we are here observing this universe, singles out this universe, with all the others lost in a sea of quantum uncertainty. The situation becomes strangely self-referential.

At this point, the general reader is quite possibly going to be confused. This is, of course, quite a radical notion in understanding the nature of the universe. And, quite frankly, the reader might wonder what separates Hawking’s final theory from what some might consider pseudo-scientific ramblings.

The idea that we, as observers, are essential for bringing the universe into being is not a new one, and is often the source of ridicule. Of course, given the scientific weight of the authors, this final theory must be given merit, but whether this hypothesis is a true contender for an accurate description of the life of our universe is hard to judge.

This should not put the reader off. Hertog’s easy writing style jumps from topic to topic and provides an overview of the development of modern cosmology and the need for quantum mechanics in understanding the ultimate origins of the universe.

But when the going gets tough and the intricate ideas of Hawking’s cosmos are explored, some things are stepped over a little too quickly and a little more time lingering on what might seem straightforward to quantum cosmologists would have been a benefit.

In closing, it is worth pointing out that there are some irritating features to the writing, including the almost hero worship Hawking receives. Clearly given the close relationship between the author and his subject, this is somewhat understandable, but can still be grating.

The text also mixes the philosophy-bashing that appears to be a badge of honour of modern physicists with various philosophical musings that underpin the cosmological and quantum thinking. But given the scope of the topic, and with a mix of anecdotes, quotes and analogies, Hertog provides an intriguing snapshot of our pondering of the ultimate origin of our universe.The Conversation

Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Sydney

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

‘Kidfluencer’ culture is harming kids in several ways – and there’s no meaningful regulation of it

Catherine Jane ArcherEdith Cowan University and Kate DelmoUniversity of Technology Sydney

Parents share content of their children for myriad reasons, including to connect with friends and family, and to seek validation or support.

However, some parents also do this for commercial gain. They manage their children as social media “kidfluencers” – allowing them to work with brands to market products to other children (and adults).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest interim report for the Digital Platforms Services Inquiry has acknowledged key issues relevant to kidfluencers, including privacy concerns and possible labour exploitation issues.

Our research, published recently in the M/C Journal, further highlights how the kidfluencer culture opens the door for possible child exploitation and a host of other problems.

There is a clear need for regulation in this space – and achieving it will require a considered, collective effort.

Is YouTube The World’s Most Popular Babysitter?

Speaking to Forbes in 2019, Eyal Baumel, the chief executive of Yoola (a management company which also manages digital child stars), described YouTube as “the most popular babysitter in the world”.

Since then, the COVID pandemic has prompted a surge in screentime for kids, who are being marketed toys as well as other products normally targeted to adults.

Product lines for kids are big business. In 2021, the global toys market was projected to grow from about US$141 billion to $230.6 billion by 2028.

It’s now common to see YouTube kidfluencers marketing toys to other kids through toy “reviews”. But these videos aren’t the same as traditional product reviews. They’re mash-ups that blur the lines between three major genres: reviews, branded content and entertainment.

The most popular toy review channels have millions of subscribers, and their hosts are some of YouTube’s top earners. Ryan’s World is probably the most well-known channel in this genre. Conservative estimates suggest 10-year-old Ryan Kanji’s family earns about US$25 million each year.

Instakids Are On The Rise

Apart from YouTube (now more popular among kids than television), a significant number of kids and teens are also spending time on Instagram.

According to a 2021 report by child protection organisation Thorn, about 40% of children under age 13 (out of some 750 interviewed) said they’d used Instagram. This is despite the platform ostensibly only being for people aged 13 and older.

For our latest research, we analysed the Instagram accounts of two Australian influencer siblings to better understand the nature of child-to-child marketing in 2023.

Pixie Curtis, age 11, started her online toy store Pixie’s Pix during COVID, when toy sales rose globally. This came after initial success selling hair bows through Pixie’s Bows, a business managed by her mother, PR entrepreneur and reality TV personality Roxy Jacenko.

Pixie’s Instagram account (which has about 136,000 followers), and her brother Hunter’s (20,000 followers), have been used to promote Pixie’s Pix toys as well as other brands and products.

And although Pixie recently “retired” from the toy shop business, she continues to promote products, including her original line of hair bows and other brands’ skincare and beauty products.

Our research identifies key areas of concern, including:

  • a lack of online privacy for kidfluencers, who have many aspects of their lives publicised online
  • the commodification of children, and the enabling of a culture geared at up-selling them products and services
  • the gendered marketing of toys and an increased focus on appearance for girls (which can be harmful for their self-esteem)
  • the “stealth” marketing of toys and other products through advertorials.

Regulation Is Needed Now

So far, the French government appears to be the only one that has taken tangible action to regulate the labour of child social media influencers. Under French law, children below age 16 can only work limited hours, and their earnings must be safeguarded in an account made accessible when they turn 16.

France is also considering legislation to regulate “sharenting” – a portmanteau of sharing and parenting that describes the practice of consistently posting content about one’s children on social media.

In the US, the Coogan Act (named after child star Jackie Coogan) was signed into law in 1939 to regulate child labour in the entertainment industry, but no equivalent laws have been enacted for child social media stars.

Nonetheless, the problems surrounding kidfluencing are starting to gain attention around the world.

Last year a UK House of Commons report investigated the implications of influencers targeting children with advertorials, especially those that provide little to no disclosure of the post being an ad.

The committee made several recommendations, including promoting young people’s social media literacy, developing a code of conduct for influencer marketing, and strengthening the powers of the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority and Competition and Markets Authority.

As a result, the UK’s Department for Education is now “open to exploring legislative ways of improving employment protection for child influencers”.

The Unintended Consequences Of Regulation

In January, Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) held its first Summit on Youth Safety and Wellbeing. It might be trying to get on the front foot as regulators continue to scrutinise platforms on issues relevant to young people’s social media use.

But regulating in the kidfluencer space won’t be easy. In March, Utah introduced laws to stop children under 18 having access to social media without parents’ explicit consent – but critics have pointed out the potential negative consequences.

Teens use social media for important connections, including with friends and online support groups. Vulnerable teens may become isolated without online support from their peers. Beyond that, social media provide kids with a sense of enjoyment and identity. Taking this away could do more harm than good.

More work is needed to determine what effective regulation would look like. While parents and educators have a role to play to increase children’s social media literacy, digital platforms and businesses should also step up.

The Conversation is commissioning articles by academics across the world who are researching how society is being shaped by our digital interactions with each other. Read more hereThe Conversation

Catherine Jane Archer, Senior Lecturer, Communication, Edith Cowan University and Kate Delmo, Senior Lecturer and Head of Discipline of Strategic Communication, University of Technology Sydney

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

Vaping and behaviour in schools: what does the research tell us?

Becky FreemanUniversity of Sydney

In a major speech today, Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said vaping has become “the number one behavioural issue in high schools”.

The government today proposed a suite of reforms aimed at reducing vaping.

But what does the evidence show about the prevalence of vaping in schools and the kind of behavioural issues associated with it?

My colleagues and I have been researching teen vape use through the Generation Vape study. We’ve been tracking teenagers’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about using vapes (also known as e-cigarettes).

This has involved interviewing and surveying young people across Australia aged 13–17, their parents and carers and secondary school teachers, principals and administrators.

Here’s what we know so far.

How Prevalent Is Vaping In High Schools?

Of the 721 young people we have surveyed so far:

  • 32% had ever vaped (we call these people “ever-vapers”)

  • 54% of ever-vapers had never smoked cigarettes before starting vaping

  • ever-smokers were seven times more likely to be ever-vapers than those who had never smoked (in other words, young people who have tried smoking are much more likely to have tried vaping)

  • ever-vapers were 18 times more likely to be ever-smokers than those who had never vaped (in other words, young people who had ever tried vaping were significantly more likely to have ever tried smoking).

Most of our respondents said the main factor driving their vaping was flavouring and taste.

In other words, about one in three teenagers have tried vaping. Only a few years ago it was really rare, but it’s exploded in use.

We also asked about frequency of vaping. We found 10% typically used vapes on six or more days a month, but the fact that most are occasional users suggests we have a window of opportunity to act now before these people become addicted.

Occasional users told us they are trying vaping because they are curious, are interested in experiencing the hit from nicotine, and don’t imagine themselves getting addicted. Unfortunately, they often do find soon themselves addicted, which is why a public health response is so urgently needed.

Our data also shows:

  • more than half of those trying a vape for the first time are under age 16

  • more than half of ever-vapers reported using a vape they knew contained nicotine

  • vaping is seen as a socially acceptable behaviour separate and unique from smoking.

One 17-year-old ever-vaper told us “no-one” buys the non-nicotine devices

because they don’t give you head spins, so they are pointless. It’s almost like wasting money.

Another 17-year-old past vaper told us:

Oh, you can get ones without nicotine but I don’t think they’re very popular […] it tells you when you buy a vape how much nicotine’s in it. It’s usually 5%.

Vapes are small and easy to hide. Shutterstock

What Are Teachers, Principals And School Administrators Saying?

In our surveys and interviews with teachers, principals and school administrators, we found:

  • 58% of teachers have confiscated vaping products from students two or more times a week

  • 86% of teachers are concerned or very concerned about students vaping in their school

  • 62% of teachers are aware of vaping products being sold on school grounds.

Teachers reported feeling they had to police students by searching bags and pencil cases, and that having to manage vaping as a disciplinary issue took time away from teaching.

Principals and school administrators talked about having to

  • use school funds to install vape detectors in school toilets

  • liaise with parents of children caught vaping

  • think about safety issues presented by people coming to the school gate to sell vapes to students.

If children are addicted, we don’t want to see them kicked out of school. It’s not their fault they have become addicted to these products. That’s why we need a public health response rather than a punitive response.

One principal told us:

it’s probably the single most disruptive thing in our school at the moment.

A different teacher said:

even when you catch them they deny to your face and then you have argue […] it becomes a massive issue and 40 minutes of your life is taken away just with this one thing when you should be doing other things as a teacher.

Another principal said:

We can bring it up with the kids as much as we want, but I think we need a little bit of traction there beyond school too.

What Kind Of Behaviour Issues Are Linked To Vaping In School?

Teens who vape regularly reported:

  • experiencing nicotine withdrawal while at school, which can feel like anxiety or stress (many told us they vape for their mental health, not understanding the stress is linked to the addiction)

  • sneaking out of class to vape

  • feeling distracted and finding it difficult to focus in the classroom

  • feeling stressed about needing to hide their device and their vaping while at school.

One 17-year-old told us:

I’d see people at school […] at nine o’clock in the morning going, “Oh do you have a vape? Do you have a vape? I need one. I haven’t had one all day”, and begging people for it […] so I think it’s mostly an addiction thing with people who are heavy users.

What Is The Evidence Telling Us Is Needed?

The evidence tells us we really need to get these products out of the hands of young people. That’s why making them harder to buy is vital.

About 80% of our respondents told us it was easy to get vapes; it was common knowledge who sold them at school or that certain people would sell them by the school gate.

That’s why the importation ban in the government reforms is so important, and why it’s crucial states and territories work with the federal government to get vapes out of corner shops and petrol stations. It’s about reducing access so kids aren’t exposed to it as they are walking to school.

Is It Really The Number One Behavioural Issue In High School?

It’s impossible to say. But certainly the data is telling us it is a very big issue.

Of the teachers we surveyed, 86% said they were “highly concerned” about vaping at school. In interviews, teachers often described vaping as the key issue they are dealing with outside the classroom.

Schools have to deal with so many issues, so if we can reduce this one or even take it off their plate altogether then we should.The Conversation

Becky Freeman, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

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

Albanese government launches war on vaping, declaring it the ‘number-one behavioural issue in high schools’

Michelle GrattanUniversity of Canberra

The federal government is declaring war on vaping, announcing measures to stamp out its recreational use – especially among the young – including by stronger legislation and enforcement action.

In a tough message to be delivered on Tuesday, Health Minister Mark Butler declares: “Vaping has become the number one behavioural issue in high schools. And it’s becoming widespread in primary schools.”

The government will work with the states and territories to clamp down on the increasing black market in vaping, including to stop the illegal import of non-prescription vapes.

The minimum quality standards for prescription vapes will be increased, with restrictions on flavours and colours.

Prescription vapes will have to come in “pharmacy-like packaging” (following the example of plain packaging for cigarettes). The permissible nicotine concentrations and volumes will be reduced, and single-use, disposable vapes will be banned.

The governments will work with other jurisdictions to shut down the sale of vapes, ending sales at convenience stores and other retailers. But it will also make it easier for people to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use.

Next week’s budget will provide $234 million to address smoking and vaping.

In an extract released ahead of delivery of his National Press Club speech, Butler warns the gains made in the fight against smoking “could be undone by a new threat to public health”.

“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” Butler says.

“It was not sold as a recreational product - especially not one for our kids. But that is what it has become: the biggest loophole in Australian history.

"One in six teenagers aged 14-17 has vaped. One in four people aged 18-24 has vaped.

"By contrast, only one in 70 people my age has vaped.”

“And when more than a thousand teenagers aged 15 to 17 were asked where they could get vapes, four out of five of them said they found it easy or somewhat easy to buy them in retail stores.

"This is a product targeted at our kids, sold alongside lollies and chocolate bars,” Butler says.

“Over the past 12 months, Victoria’s poisons hotline has taken 50 calls about children under four becoming sick from ingesting or using a vape.”

Butler says that just as with smoking, “Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.

"Vapers are three times as likely to take up smoking, which explains why under 25s are the only cohort in the community currently recording an increase in smoking rates. "This must end,” Butler says.

The budget money includes $63 million for a public health campaign to discourage people taking up smoking and vaping and encourage quitting. Some $30 million will be put into support programs to help people quit, and into education and training for health professionals.

Another $140 million will go to the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, including widening it to tackle vaping.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Researchers Explore Why Some People Get Motion Sick Playing VR Games While Others Don't

May 1, 2023
The way our senses adjust while playing high-intensity virtual reality games plays a critical role in understanding why some people experience severe cybersickness and others don't. Cybersickness is a form of motion sickness that occurs from exposure to immersive VR and augmented reality applications.

A new study, led by researchers at the University of Waterloo, found that the subjective visual vertical -- a measure of how individuals perceive the orientation of vertical lines -- shifted considerably after participants played a high-intensity VR game.

"Our findings suggest that the severity of a person's cybersickness is affected by how our senses adjust to the conflict between reality and virtual reality," said Michael Barnett-Cowan, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences. "This knowledge could be invaluable for developers and designers of VR experiences, enabling them to create more comfortable and enjoyable environments for users."

The researchers collected data from 31 participants. They assessed their perceptions of the vertical before and after playing two VR games, one high-intensity and one low-intensity.

Those who experienced less sickness were more likely to have the largest change in the subjective visual vertical following exposure to VR, particularly at a high intensity. Conversely, those who had the highest levels of cybersickness were less likely to have changed how they perceived vertical lines. There were no significant differences between males and females, nor between participants with low and high gaming experience.

"While the subjective vertical visual task significantly predicted the severity of cybersickness symptoms, there is still much to be explained," said co-author William Chung, a former Waterloo doctoral student who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

"By understanding the relationship between sensory reweighting and cybersickness susceptibility, we can potentially develop personalised cybersickness mitigation strategies and VR experiences that take into account individual differences in sensory processing and hopefully lower the occurrence of cybersickness."

As VR continues to revolutionize gaming, education and social interaction, addressing the pervasive issue of cybersickness -- marked by symptoms such as nausea, disorientation, eye strain and fatigue -- is critical for ensuring a positive user experience.

William Chung, Michael Barnett-Cowan. Sensory reweighting: a common mechanism for subjective visual vertical and cybersickness susceptibility. Virtual Reality, 2023; DOI: 10.1007/s10055-023-00786-z

Isotope analysis helps tell the stories of Aboriginal people living under early colonial expansion

Queensland Police MuseumCC BY-NC-SA
Shaun AdamsGriffith UniversityDavid McGahanGriffith UniversityMark CollardSimon Fraser UniversityMichael WestawayThe University of Queensland, and Richard MartinThe University of Queensland

Acknowledgement: we would like to extend our thanks to the Gkuthaarn and Kukatj People who invited us to work on this sensitive project through the lens of truth-telling – particularly Phillip George, Richie Bee and Francine George – whose insights have formed a key pillar of the work.

In 2015, Gkuthaarn and Kukatj community members of Queensland’s Gulf Country invited us to excavate, analyse, and rebury the skeletal remains of eight young Indigenous people who died near the town of Normanton in the late 1800s.

The remains were acquired by Walter Roth (1861-1933). Roth was a medical doctor, anthropologist, and the first Northern Protector of Aboriginal people. He eventually sold the remains to the Australian Museum in Sydney, which held them for almost a century before repatriating them to the Traditional Owners in the 1990s.

The remains were reburied, but later exposed by erosion – which prompted Gkuthaarn and Kukatj community members to invite us to collaborate with them.

In research published in Archaeologies, we show how bioarchaeological techniques have helped shed light on the experiences of these young Indigenous people who were displaced by European colonisation.

Unfortunately, we only know the name of one of the eight individuals – a young woman named Dolly. Roth’s records indicate Dolly was a member of the Gkuthaarn and Kukatj People, and was working at the police barracks (shown in the banner image) in the town of Cloncurry, about 382km south of Normanton, when she died.

Gkuthaarn and Kukatj rangers reburied the remains in the Normanton Aboriginal Cemetery in 2015. Author providedAuthor provided

Driven From Their Lands

In 2018, we published a study that showed these individuals had experienced nutritional stress and, in some cases, syphilis. These findings are consistent with other evidence relating to the experience of Aboriginal people living on the Gulf Country during colonial expansion.

Archaeological data and historical documents indicate Aboriginal people on the Gulf Country lived as foragers until the mid-1800s, when their lands were occupied by Europeans and stocked with cattle. The cattle depleted resources that were critical for a foraging lifestyle, and conflict ensued.

As a result of the violence and loss of resources, many Aboriginal people on the Gulf Country became refugees in their own land. They had little choice but to move into camps on the fringes of towns such as Normanton. These camps were overcrowded and unhygienic, and many occupants died from infectious diseases as a result.

We spoke to several Gkuthaarn and Kukatj people during the course of our research. One senior person expressed feeling relief when the remains were safely retrieved and reburied:

[Researchers] put a tarp over and dug it [the remains] up real steady. [They were] fragile from the sun […] We felt like we was just welcome [by the spirits of the people connected with these remains], like they wanted to get reburied. [We] just had that feeling they wanted to get reburied; was a couple of times they had been exposed.

Insight Into Displacement, Disease And Diet

In our recent study, we analysed strontium, carbon, and oxygen isotopes from the teeth of six of the eight individuals.

Measuring isotope ratios in human bones and teeth can reveal information about an individual’s diet and geographical movements prior to their death. When we compare strontium isotope values from tooth enamel to an isotope map (called an “isoscape”) constructed for this project, we can see where the six individuals grew up.

Dolly’s strontium value suggests she grew up near the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is consistent with Roth’s suggestion that Dolly was a member of the Gkuthaarn and Kukatj People, as their traditional territory extends to the coast. The strontium results for the other individuals suggest they grew up some distance to the east or northeast of Normanton.

Maps showing the location of Normanton relative to the Gulf Plains region and Cape York. Author provided

Carbon isotope results indicate that in their early years, all six individuals had diets dominated by tropical plants and/or marine foods. However, Dolly’s carbon value suggests her diet was especially high in such foods. This is again consistent with her having lived near the Gulf of Carpentaria when she was young.

The oxygen isotope results we obtained are also high when compared to international samples. We suspect these elevated values can be explained by a combination of the environmental conditions in the Gulf Country, and the effects of infectious diseases that spread into the region with European settlers.

Based on the formation times of Dolly’s tooth samples, and her strontium and oxygen values, we estimate she moved from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Cloncurry area sometime between the age of 2.5 and 10. Our analyses also suggest she was a young adult when she died.

These assessments are in line with Roth’s reports from the Gulf Country, which state that Indigenous girls were often taken from their families and made to work for Europeans, and that it was common for such individuals to succumb to diseases early in life.

Speaking on the findings, one Gkuthaarn and Kukatj person told us:

I am sad to learn of our people getting horrible diseases and, with the study completed, these were young people who left behind such a sad story that needs to be told so non-Indigenous people, not just throughout Australia but particularly in our region, know and understand that these traumas still impact on our people 120 years later.

The Voice

Combined with historical documents and information from contemporary Gkuthaarn and Kukatj People, our results provide new individual-level insight into the devastating impact of European colonisation on Aboriginal people of the Gulf Country.

Australians are currently debating a constitutional amendment to create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. The proposed amendment is a key recommendation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Another key recommendation is that of “truth-telling” about the experiences of Aboriginal people during European colonial expansion.

Science can’t tell us whether the Voice is the correct course of action. Yet our findings about these individuals – whose remains we have been honoured to analyse – reveal that scientific work conducted with and by First Nations people has an invaluable role in the process of truth-telling.

We hope such work will help reveal more truth of the experiences of those rendered voiceless by the violence of colonisation. As one Gkuthaarn and Kukatj person explained:

My old grandmother was one of those people who said they was horrible and didn’t want to repeat it [i.e. they did not want to tell accounts of colonial violence to subsequent generations], but I believe it should be repeated [to] help us understand more about what really happened.

People [are] just listening to one side of it. You’ve got people who say Aboriginals just live off the welfare, but there was a reason why that happened. Aboriginal people fought for this country. You’ve got people who say you’ve gotta get over that [colonial violence], but what I say is: lest we forget.

We would like to thank our co-author Susan Phillips for her involvement in this research.The Conversation

Shaun Adams, Archaeologist, Griffith UniversityDavid McGahan, Visiting Researcher, Griffith UniversityMark Collard, Canada Research Chair in Human Evolutionary Studies, and Professor of Archaeology, Simon Fraser UniversityMichael Westaway, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Archaeology, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, and Richard Martin, Senior lecturer, The University of Queensland

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

Here’s why your freezer smells so bad – and what you can do about it

TY Lim/Shutterstock
Enzo PalomboSwinburne University of Technology and Rosalie HockingSwinburne University of Technology

Most people would expect a freezer can keep perishable food fresh and safe from spoilage for many months. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Have you ever noticed a funky smell in your freezer? Where does it come from and what can be done to fix the problem?

Hardy Microbes And Pungent Chemicals

There are several causes for bad smells coming from your freezer. Typically, the culprits are microbes – bacteria, yeasts and moulds.

Although a freezer dramatically slows down the growth of most common spoilage microbes, some can still thrive if the temperature rises above -18℃ (the recommended freezer temperature). This can happen if there is a power outage for more than a few hours, or if you put something hot straight in the freezer.

Food spills and open containers provide an opportunity for microbes to get to work. It’s also worth noting that many microbes will survive freezing and start growing again once conditions are favourable – for example, if you remove the food, partially thaw it, and return it to the freezer.

Two things happen when food breaks down. First, as microbes start to grow, several pungent chemicals are produced. Second, the fats and flavours that are part of the food itself can and will be released.

These are generally referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are the pleasant aromas that we sense when we eat, but VOCs can also be produced by bacteria.

For example, many of us would be familiar with the smells that come from fermentation – a microbial process. When fermenting a food, we intentionally contaminate it with microbes of known characteristics, or provide conditions that favour the growth of desirable microbes and subsequent production of aromatic compounds.

By contrast, uncontrolled food spoilage is problematic, especially when the contaminating microbes can cause disease.

Close-up of chopsticks picking up a piece of kimchi from a white bowl
Kimchi is one of the foods we deliberately allow to be ‘contaminated’ in order to produce the intense flavour. Nungning20/Shutterstock

Freezing Changes The Food

It is not only microbial growth that can lead to undesirable odours. There’s a suite of chemical processes happening in the freezer, too.

Freezing causes physical changes to foods, often enhancing their breakdown. Many of us would be familiar with “freezer burn” on meats and other foods, as well as ice crystals on frozen food.

This phenomenon is called “salt rejection”. Depending on how rapidly something is frozen, salts can sometimes be concentrated, as pure water freezes at a higher temperature than water with things dissolved in it – like sugars and salts. On a large scale, this happens to icebergs in the ocean. As the sea water freezes, salt is removed. Thus, the iceberg is composed of fresh water, and the surrounding sea water becomes a saltier and denser brine.

In a similar way, as water in food freezes, organic molecules are concentrated and expelled. If these are volatile, they move about the freezer and stick to other things. Where they end up depends on what else is around.

Some of the volatiles like water. We call them “hydrophilic” or water loving; those are the ones that will make your food taste bad. Other are more water-hating or “hydrophobic” and they stick to things like silicone ice cube trays, making them go smelly.

Domestic freezers are commonly attached to a refrigerator, and this provides another opportunity for smells to move through the systems. The two units share a single cooling source and airflow channel. If your fridge has foul odours from the food inside (natural or after microbial spoilage), it is very likely they will migrate to your freezer.

Help, My Freezer Smells!

There are some simple steps you can take to stop your freezer from smelling.

First, try to prevent odours from developing in the first place by covering the food. If you place food in an airtight container (glass is best), it will dramatically slow the release of any aromatic compounds produced by bacteria or the food itself. Covered food is also less likely to absorb smells and flavours from other foods around it.

If the smells have already developed, you can eliminate them by following a few simple steps, including a thorough clean.

  • Remove all items from the freezer and inspect the foods for any spoilage, freezer burn or unpleasant odours.

  • Discard anything that has developed ice crystals and store the rest in a cooler box while attending to the freezer itself. You should also inspect the fridge and discard any bad-smelling foods.

  • Once you have removed all items, take out the shelves and clean up spills or crumbs.

  • Wipe down all surfaces using warm soapy water or a mix of two tablespoons of baking soda with warm water.

  • Wash all the shelves and ice compartments and let them dry completely.

If the smells are not removed with these simple cleaning steps, the freezer may require a deep clean, which involves turning off the unit and letting it “breathe” for a few days.

Placing some baking soda inside the freezer before adding food can help to absorb any residual odours. For serious smells where crevices or insulation are contaminated, you may need a service technician.

In short, even though we think freezers keep things “fresh”, microbes can still proliferate in there. Make sure to clean your freezer now and then to keep your food safe and healthy.The Conversation

Enzo Palombo, Professor of Microbiology, Swinburne University of Technology and Rosalie Hocking, , Swinburne University of Technology

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

'Golden' Fossils Reveal Origins Of Exceptional Preservation

May 2, 2023
All that glitters is not gold, or even fool's gold in the case of fossils. A recent study by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and collaborators found that many of the fossils from Germany's Posidonia shale do not get their gleam from pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold, which was long thought to be the source of the shine. Instead, the golden hue is from a mix of minerals that hints at the conditions in which the fossils formed.

Ammonite fossil From the Ohmden quarry, Posidonia shale lagerstatte. Credit: Sinjini Sinha

The discovery is important for understanding how the fossils -- which are among the world's best-preserved specimens of sea life from the Early Jurassic -- came to form in the first place, and the role that oxygen in the environment had in their formation.

"When you go to the quarries, golden ammonites peek out from black shale slabs," said study co-author Rowan Martindale, an associate professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. "But surprisingly, we struggled to find pyrite in the fossils. Even the fossils that looked golden, are preserved as phosphate minerals with yellow calcite. This dramatically changes our view of this famous fossil deposit."

The research was published in Earth Science Reviews. Drew Muscente, a former assistant professor at Cornell College and former Jackson School postdoctoral researcher, led the study.

The fossils of the Posidonia Shale date back to 183 million years ago, and include rare soft-bodied specimens such as ichthyosaur embryos, squids with ink-sacs, and lobsters. To learn more about the fossilization conditions that led to such exquisite preservation, the researchers put dozens of samples under scanning electron microscopes to study their chemical composition.

"I couldn't wait to get them in my microscope and help tell their preservational story," said co-author Jim Schiffbauer, an associate professor at the University of Missouri Department of Geological Sciences, who handled some of the larger samples.

The researchers found that in every instance, the fossils were primarily made up of phosphate minerals even though the surrounding black shale rock was dotted with microscopic clusters of pyrite crystals, called framboids.

"I spent days looking for the framboids on the fossil," said co-author Sinjini Sinha, a doctoral student at the Jackson School. "For some of the specimens, I counted 800 framboids on the matrix while there was maybe three or four on the fossils."

The fact that pyrite and phosphate are found in different places on the specimens is important because it reveals key details about the fossilization environment. Pyrite forms in anoxic (without oxygen) environments, but phosphate minerals need oxygen. The research suggests that although an anoxic seafloor sets the stage for fossilization -- keeping decay and predators at bay -- it took a pulse of oxygen to drive the chemical reactions needed for fossilization.

These findings complement earlier research carried out by the team on the geochemical conditions of sites known for their caches of exceptionally preserved fossils, called konservat-lagerstätten. However, the results of these studies contradict long-standing theories about the conditions needed for exceptional fossil preservation in the Posidonia.

"It's been thought for a long time that the anoxia causes the exceptional preservation, but it doesn't directly help," said Sinha. "It helps with making the environment conducive to faster fossilization, which leads to the preservation, but it's oxygenation that's enhancing preservation."

It turns out, the oxygenation -- and the phosphate and accompanying minerals -- also enhanced the fossil's shine.

The research was funded by Cornell College and the National Science Foundation. The Posidonia fossil specimens used in this study are now part of the collections at the Jackson School's Non-Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory.

A.D. Muscente, Olivia Vinnes, Sinjini Sinha, James D. Schiffbauer, Erin E. Maxwell, Günter Schweigert, Rowan C. Martindale. What role does anoxia play in exceptional fossil preservation? Lessons from the taphonomy of the Posidonia Shale (Germany). Earth-Science Reviews, 2023; 238: 104323 DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2023.104323

Evidence Of Conscious-Like Activity In The Dying Brain

May 1, 2023
Reports of near-death experiences -- with tales of white light, visits from departed loved ones, hearing voices, among other attributes -- capture our imagination and are deeply engrained in our cultural landscape.

The fact that these reports share so many common elements begs the question of whether there is something fundamentally real underpinning them -- and that those who have managed to survive death are providing glimpses of a consciousness that does not completely disappear, even after the heart stops beating.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, provides early evidence of a surge of activity correlated with consciousness in the dying brain.

The study, led by Jimo Borjigin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology and the Department of Neurology, and her team is a follow-up to animal studies conducted almost ten years ago in collaboration with George Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., the founding director of the Michigan Center for Consciousness Science.

Similar signatures of gamma activation were recorded in the dying brains of both animals and humans upon a loss of oxygen following cardiac arrest.

"How vivid experience can emerge from a dysfunctional brain during the process of dying is a neuroscientific paradox. Dr. Borjigin has led an important study that helps shed light on the underlying neurophysiologic mechanisms," said Mashour.

The team identified four patients who passed away due to cardiac arrest in the hospital while under EEG monitoring. All four of the patients were comatose and unresponsive. They were ultimately determined to be beyond medical help and, with their families' permission, removed from life support.

Upon removal of ventilator support, two of the patients showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity, considered the fastest brain activity and associated with consciousness.

Furthermore, the activity was detected in the so-called hot zone of neural correlates of consciousness in the brain, the junction between the temporal, parietal and occipital lobes in the back of the brain. This area has been correlated with dreaming, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, and altered states of consciousness in other brain studies.

These two patients had previous reports of seizures, but no seizures during the hour before their deaths, explained Nusha Mihaylova, M.D., Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the Department of Neurology who has collaborated with Dr. Borjigin since 2015 by collecting EEG data from deceased patients under ICU care. The other two patients did not display the same increase in heartrate upon removal from life support nor did they have increased brain activity.

Because of the small sample size, the authors caution against making any global statements about the implications of the findings. They also note that it's impossible to know in this study what the patients experienced because they did not survive.

"We are unable to make correlations of the observed neural signatures of consciousness with a corresponding experience in the same patients in this study. However, the observed findings are definitely exciting and provide a new framework for our understanding of covert consciousness in the dying humans," she said.

Larger, multi-center studies including EEG-monitored ICU patients who survive cardiac arrest, could provide much needed data to determine whether or not these bursts in gamma activity are evidence of hidden consciousness even near death.

Gang Xu, Temenuzhka Mihaylova, Duan Li, Fangyun Tian, Peter M. Farrehi, Jack M. Parent, George A. Mashour, Michael M. Wang, Jimo Borjigin. Surge of neurophysiological coupling and connectivity of gamma oscillations in the dying human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2023; 120 (19) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2216268120

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.