To all members of our TAT family, readers and contributors, who celebrate Diwali..
We wish you Safety, Good Health, Happiness, Prosperity and Good Fortune.
May they all be with you in the coming year.
An Australian research breakthrough is set to revolutionise agriculture by eliminating a time-consuming and costly headache for the nation’s farmers, through the creation of self-weeding crops.
A report in leading science publication COSMOS showcases ground-breaking work being conducted at Charles Sturt University, with two varieties of canola able to stop weeds by releasing their own form of herbicides into the ground.
Weeds are not just irritating. They are a problem that sees Australian grain growers lose an estimated $3.3billion and 2.76 million tonnes of harvest every year.
“Weeds are still largely being controlled with synthetic herbicides, but many species are evolving resistance,” notes agricultural scientist and research team leader Professor Jim Pratley.
“Farmers are starting to run out of options, and there is a strong need to find other approaches.”
US based GlobalGiving, the world’s largest crowdfunding community, has proved distance is no barrier in making large scale impact. The group has helped Australian not-for-profit Rainforest Rescue protect 11 new Rainforest properties across the Daintree rainforest in tropical Far North Queensland, Australia.
The Daintree Rainforest is one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in the world, and of international conservation importance, with a lineage going back 170 million years. Much of the Daintree upland and offshore Great Barrier Reef is protected with World Heritage Status. However, significant stretches of the lowland rainforest between these two areas remains unprotected and is under threat of development. For the past 18 years Rainforest Rescue has worked to rescue, restore and conserve rainforest to protect this unique habitat.
Now, with significant financial support from 279 donors in GlobalGiving’s Project of the Month Club, Rainforest Rescue has placed Nature Refuge covenants across eleven new rainforest properties the Daintree lowlands. This strips all development rights from the land which means the rainforest is protected forever.
“We’re thrilled that GlobalGiving donors pooled their resources to support Rainforest Rescue and made such a huge impact in the Daintree. It really demonstrates the power of generosity,” said Alison Carlman, Director of Marketing and Communications at GlobalGiving.
“This is a fantastic win for the rainforest” says Julian Gray, Rainforest Rescue CEO. “Overnight we’ve doubled the area of rainforest protected under Nature Refuges in the Daintree. GlobalGiving is helping us reach people across the world to tell the amazing Daintree story.”
Rainforest Rescue has saved 27 Rainforest properties in the Daintree and planted over 125,000 trees in reforestation projects across the area.
Working with the Queensland Trust for Nature the covenanted properties include the creation of a new Milky Pine Wildlife Refuge and significant expansion of both the Baralba Corridor and Rainforest Rescue Nature Refuges.
The team at IMAX Melbourne Museum is thrilled to invite VCE students to register for
IMAX Bright Young Minds: A Beautiful Planet 3D + Q & A with Astronaut Marsha Ivins,
taking place on September 7 at 4pm.
This free event screening is the first in the all-new IMAX Bright Young Minds series of events aimed at providing STEM-facing VCE students with an educational and entertaining afternoon out in the Melbourne Museum precinct, at no cost.
“Here at IMAX we are keen to provide senior students with the opportunity to meet an aspirational individual and watch a related documentary film in the very best format available. We are proud to welcome the extraordinary NASA veteran Marsha Ivins to Melbourne and to introduce her to some of our brightest young minds.
“A BEAUTIFUL PLANET 3D is a spectacular film – it aligns to the Victorian STEM curriculum. Our aim is to inspire the students to really consider a career in the STEM fields”, says IMAX Melbourne Museum General Manager Richard Morrison.
Students are invited to arrive after school on September 7 at 3.45pm for a 4pm screening of A BEAUTIFUL PLANET 3D followed by a 30 minute Q & A with Marsha. At the time of registration, students can submit a question for the Q & A session.
Registrations can be made on Eventbrite. Join the conversation online! #IMAXBrightYoungMinds
IMAX Bright Young Minds will run quarterly with the next screening to take place in January, featuring David Attenborough’s MUSEUM ALIVE 3D.
Geologists from the University of Sydney and the California Institute of Technology have solved the mystery of how Australia’s highest mountain – Mount Kosciusko – and surrounding Alps came to exist.
Most of the world’s mountain belts are the result of two continents colliding (e.g. the Himalayas) or volcanism. The mountains of Australia’s Eastern highlands – stretching from north-eastern Queensland to western Victoria – are an exception. Until now no one knew how they formed.
A research team spearheaded by Professor Dietmar Müller from the University’s School of Geosciences used high performance computing code to investigate the cause of the uplift which created the mountain range. The team found the answer in the mountains’ unusually strong gravity field.
“The gravity field led us to suspect the region might be pushed up from below so we started looking at the underlying mantle: the layer of rock between the Earth’s core and its crust,” said Professor Müller.
The team found the mantle under Australia’s east coast has been uplifted twice.
The first occurred during the Early Cretaceous Period, when Australia was part of Gondwanaland.
Over Earth’s lifespan or ‘geological time’ the largely solid mantle has continuously been stirred by old, cold tectonic plate sections sinking into the deep mantle, under another plate. This process, called subduction, was occurring during the Early Cretaceous Period.
“Eastern Australia was drifting over a subducted plate graveyard, giving it a sinking feeling,” said co-author Dr Kara Matthews, a former PhD candidate at the University now at the University of Oxford. “But around 100 million years ago subduction came to a halt, resulting in the entire region being uplifted, forming the Eastern Highlands.”
The next 50 million years was a time of relative inactivity.
“Then, about 50 million years ago Australia’s separation from Antarctica accelerated and it started moving north-northeast, gradually taking it closer to a vast mantle upwelling called the South Pacific Superswell,” said co-author Dr Nicolas Flament. “This provided a second upward push to the Eastern Highlands as they gradually rode over the edge of the superswell.”
Professor Müller said the two-phase uplift suggested by supercomputer models is supported by geological features from rivers in the Snow Mountains, where river incision occurred in two distinct phases.
“The model we built explains why the iconic Australian Alps exist and is also a new mechanism for figuring out how some other mountainous regions elsewhere in the world were formed.”
The team’s findings have been published in Earth and Planetary Sciences.
6 February 2016: Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter said today that coal seam gas opponents had claimed a ‘scalp’ in their ongoing war against CSG – as AGL Energy this week made a decision to cease its coal seam gas operations in Australia.
Mr Katter paid tribute to the tireless individuals who had fought against coal seam gas projects – from radio personalities, to Lock the Gate, to farmers, to knitting Nannas – but said the battle was far from over.
“Just this week I had a meeting with Dr David Pascoe and his wife Heather about this very issue – as early as four or five years ago they told me the issue of coal seam gas was so serious and so frightening it had the potential to redefine the political landscape of Australia.
“So we pay tribute to all of these people in having a very small win, but a win nonetheless.
“The CSG industry has treated land owners – and I don’t just mean farmers – but land owners of Queensland with absolute contempt.
“They have jeopardised the water supply for vast areas of Queensland – and all for an industry that does not give two bob to the Australian economy.
“We have always been proudly a mining state but coal seam gas has, and is, seriously damaging the mining industry.
“When the construction and development phase is over the industry comes back to 2500 jobs, and almost its entire $25,000 million a year income will then line the pockets of rich foreign CSG giants,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter has constantly warned of the potentially catastrophic social and economic costs of coal seam gas aquifer drilling which threatens to contaminate our waters and the lifeblood of Australia’s agricultural industries.
In 2013 Mr Katter introduced laws to place a temporary suspension on aquifer drilling for coal seam gas extraction.
Australian solar company Natural Solar, has led the charge when it comes to battery power, as one of the first authorised installers to install the highly anticipated Tesla Daily Powerwall into a residential home in Australia this week.
Attracting worldwide attention, Australia has been one of the first regions globally to receive the Tesla Powerwall Home Battery. This long awaited installation, the first of many scheduled around the country, has occurred after the initial Tesla Powerwall shipment arrived in Australia this week.
“Since being announced as a Tesla Powerwall installer at the tail end of last year, Natural Solar has received an unprecedented number of enquiries about the Tesla Powerwall, indicating the Australian public is well and truly ready for this new frontier in renewable energy,” says Chris Williams, Managing Director of Natural Solar.
One of the first Australian families to have their very own Tesla Powerwall installed is the Pfizner family, based in Sydney’s Hills District. Their personal renewable energy solution includes the Tesla Powerwall Home Battery, an array of 5kWp, a SolarEdge inverter and monitoring software to see the direct output of energy from the entire system and the Tesla Powerwall.
Australians will have the chance to have their very own Tesla Powerwall installed with or without solar panels. Alternatively, for those with panels already installed, there is the opportunity for a retro-fit to occur allowing a Tesla Powerwall to be added along with a compatible inverter to an existing solar system.
“There are already 1.5 million Australian households that are using solar energy. The Tesla Powerwall is highly developed technology that will allow users to save money, and reduce their residential carbon emissions from day one,” continued Mr Williams.
The functionality of the Tesla Powerwall Home Battery is simple, with this device storing solar energy during sunlight hours allowing homeowners to use it at night, avoiding the need to sell excess energy back to the grid.
The Powerwall, which carries an impressive 10-year warranty period, has such a range of new and varied functionalities. It is also extremely affordable, with a number of payment plans and options from Natural Solar allowing customers to be cash flow positive from day one.
“Installations have been scheduled in each of the major states and territories starting from as early as next week,” commented Mr Williams. “For Natural Solar, as one of the first installers to bring the Tesla Powerwall to mainstream Australia is truly exciting and invigorating, and cements our position as leading experts in renewable energy and battery power. We are delighted to be working with Tesla Energy to drive the growth of battery power in Australia.”
Brisbane and Townsville –
Queensland-based company Fibercon has been named among the country’s greats in the area of innovation for its recycled plastic fibre concrete reinforcing product Emesh.
The company, which has offices both in Brisbane and Townsville has taken out the Manufacturing, Construction and Infrastructure category at the prestigious The Australian, Shell and Department of Industry, Australian Innovation Challenge Awards, held in Canberra in December 2015.
As well as the prestige of winning the prize, Fibercon has also been awarded $5,000 from a total pool of $65,000 in prize money spread nationwide.
The win was a team effort involving Fibercon CEO Mark Combe, Fibercon’s Technical Developer Mr Shi Yin, Fibercon R&D Manager Tony Collister and Dr Rabin Tuladhar Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean (Engineering), James Cook University.
According to Mark, concrete represents the second most used material by humankind, second just to water.
“With an annual use of 24 billion tonnes of concrete globally, it’s vital that we improve sustainability performance,” Mark said.
“At the same time, global plastic production every year is more than 300 million tonnes, out of which only 5% is currently being recycled, leading to burgeoning plastic pollution.
“Recycling a part of this plastic waste into fibres provides an opportunity to reduce global plastic pollution.
“Furthermore, use of this recycled plastic fibre in concrete contributes towards sustainable development by reducing the consumption of steel in concrete.”
Mark said the product ticked a number of boxes to win favour with the judges, including: Project Introduction and Novelty, Potential Impact, Environmental Sustainability and End User Benefit and Adoption and Take-up.
“We’re a green product that has been successfully commercialised,” Mark said.
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