Author: Alisa Williamson

NPWS Hunter Discovery Tours Winter 2018

Whale Tales 2018

Whale Watching, Games, Sausage Sizzle AND MORE

Learn more about whales from whale expert Jeannie Lawson!

Join us to hear stories around these majestic creatures as well as to help spot the humpbacks as they venture north to warmer waters.


Event running THIS SUNDAY (24th) in Boat Harbour and SUNDAY 8th July in Fingal Bay.

See the attached flyer or our website for more details!

Project Lazarus


Our very own Professor Michael Mahony  attempts the seemingly impossible – to unwind extinction by bringing back to life the Australian gastric brooding frog.Profile Image

The project was awarded TIME Magazines top 25 best inventions of 2013.

Interest has recently been revitalised on the breakthrough genome technology, due to an ABC documentary starring Professor Mike Mahony and the University of Newcastle Team.

The The Lazarus Project has developed de-extinction technology which will resurrect vanished species and is the only Australian invention named in the global list.

The resurrection of the gastric brooding frog may also have implications for the medical world.

“The gastric brooding frog swallows externally fertilized eggs into its stomach, which then operates as a uterus. No other living creature can do this. This unique ability could help the medical world work out how to manage gastric secretions in the gut,” said Michael Mahony, Project Leader, Professor of Biology at the University of Newcastle and internationally-renowned ‘Frog Whisperer’.

Known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation, the cloning technology had never previously been successfully applied to dead tissue. In repeated experiments over five years, the nuclei of donor eggs from the distantly related Great Barred Frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, were inactivated and replaced with dead nuclei from the gastric brooding frog which resulted in eggs spontaneously dividing and growing to early embryo stage.

Amazingly, the Lazarus Project team recovered the extinct frog cell nuclei from tissue samples collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer.

“The tissue samples we recovered from the last known laboratory to have a colony of these species had not been treated with cryoprotectant, or ‘anti-freeze’ to stop the cells from expanding and becoming damaged during the freezing process. It wasn’t until we looked at the cells under the micro-scope that we could see the cell walls were still intact,” said Professor Mahony.

The research team believes a human spread fungus was the primary cause of extinction.

“If it is clear that we have exterminated a species, we arguably have an obligation to bring it back,” said Professor Mahony.

image courtesy of ©Dr. Michael Tyler/ Science Source

The frozen specimens were preserved and provided by Professor Mike Tyler, of the

University of Adelaide, who extensively studied both species of gastric-brooding f

rog – R. silus and R. vitellinus – before they vanished in the wild in 1979 and 1985 respectively.

“Recognition by a global publication as prestigious as TIME Magazine is evidence of University of Newcastle researchers driving world-class innovation. As global leaders in their field, they are developing solutions for the world’s most significant problems,” said Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen.

Undertaken in labs at the University of Newcastle, biological work is led by Frog Whisperer, Professor Michael Mahony, along with Mr Simon Clulow and Dr John Clulow, all based at the University of Newcastle, with assistance from cloning specialists Dr Andrew French and Dr Jitong Guo and overseen by paleontologist Professor Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales.

Image supplied by Dr Michael Tyler. The image was taken in his laboratory in Adelaide and depicts the only recorded instance of a gastric brooding frog giving birth.

You can read more in The INDEPENDENT HERE

Environmental Education during January


Evening of Discovery

Marine Discovery


Take the plunge and secure your place aboard the BirdLife Australia and Aurora Expeditions voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia departing this November. You’ll spend 18 days sailing the wildlife-rich waters and enjoying daily landings and close encounters with the region’s magnificent bird species. Accompanying you on board will be BirdLife Australia’s very own Andrew Silcocks, who will interpret the region’s birdlife alongside Aurora’s team of naturalists and polar experts. You’ll land ashore to visit the world’s largest King Penguin rookeries and observe at least five other penguin species. Be mesmerised by numerous seabirds – including the world’s largest flying bird, the Wandering Albatross – as they wheel in the winds and follow in our wake.JUST ANNOUNCED – CANON COLLECTIVE EVENT
Joining us on board will be representatives from the Canon Collective. You’ll have the chance to trial new Canon equipment, with instruction and assistance from the Canon team. The Canon team will work alongside our professional photography guides – Joshua Holko (2015 Arctic Photographer of the Year) and Martyn Lucas, who will be delivering a dedicated photography program for all interested passengers.

Aurora Expeditions is offering BirdLife Australia’s members and supporters the chance to save 10% on the price of their expedition when you book before 31 August 2016. Limited places available, terms and conditions apply.

To find out more about this exclusive BirdLife Australia expedition to Antarctica and South Georgia click here.

Join Us Volunteer Volunteer

Congratulations to Thi Kim Anh Tran, PhD student in Ecology and Ecotoxicology Lab!


Congratulations to Thi Kim Anh Tran, PhD student in Ecology and Ecotoxicology Lab!


Thi Kim Anh Tran, a PhD student of Dr Richard Yu and Dr Geoff MacFarlane, was awarded the 2016 Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia (SETAC AU) Postgraduate Research Publication Award for her paper “Mechanistic insights into induction of vitellogenin gene expression by estrogens in Sydney rock oysters, Saccostrea glomerata” published in Aquatic Toxicology this May.

The prize is a cash award of AU$500, which will be presented at the SETAC AU annual conference dinner in Hobart.


The full-text of the paper can be accessed at this link:

Newcastle University Ecologist Helps Assess Threatened Species

Dr Anita Chalmers from the School of Environmental & Life Sciences has just completed a term on the NSW Scientific Committee. She was appointed as a member of the Committee by the NSW Minister of the Environment in 2014. The function of the Scientific Committee, under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, is to determine which species, populations and ecological communities are to be listed as threatened in NSW.


Photo- Dr Chalmers searching for new populations of Grevillea shiressii.

Dr Chalmers found the experience to be both rewarding and worthwhile. “I have really enjoyed my time on the Committee. It’s been hard work, but its also been really rewarding to have the opportunity to apply my scientific skills in a way that contributes to the conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales. It also reflects well on the reputation of ecologists within the Discipline of Environmental Science,” Dr Chalmers said.

For more information on the NSW Scientific Committee click here






Australian research key to contamination clean-up

Australian research key to contamination clean-up

contamination clean-upAir Force bases around Australia have been coming under fire from communities amid fears of toxic groundwater contamination but Australian research may hold the key to remediating affected areas.

Carcinogenic chemicals – perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – have been detected in groundwater extracted near RAAF bases: Williamstown in New South Wales, Oakey in Queensland, and communities north of Adelaide.

While used in common household products, such as Teflon, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex clothing, the chemicals have been linked with a range of illnesses in human beings and animals, depending on the level of exposure.

Based out of the University of Newcastle, the CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC Care) has developed a technology to remediate fire-fighting chemical contamination of wastewater and soil.

“Remediating is really all about mediating risks caused by contaminants,” CRC Care Managing Director Ravi Naidu said.

“We have been able to remediate wastewater and contaminated soils. Our technology locks the toxic substances. Once they are locked, the risk the toxins pose is reduced.”

Ravi said the technology works in a similar fashion to adding lime to farming soils to bind excess bioaccumulation of cadmium from fertilisation.

“The material we developed – matCARE – does exactly the same thing. It locks toxic substances, such that they do not leach and are not taken up by plants,” Naidu said.

“If someone ingests the soil, it won’t be leached into the human gut, either. So you can safely leave these remediating materials in the soil without any worries at all.”

While the full extent of the contamination in Williamtown, Oakey and north Adelaide is not yet known, Ravi said the magnitude of contamination depends solely on where PFOS/PFOA compounds have been received.

“The potential for risk is associated with what or who the receptors are,” he said.

“Groundwater is not static, it is moving, so the receptor could be a riverine system, or any aquatic system. Your receptor could also be anyone using vegetables grown using contaminated water.”

Meanwhile, in Williamtown, a $3.5 million project has been launched to connect 165 homes and businesses inside the investigation area with town water supplied by Hunter Water.

“Hunter Water has fast-tracked the 12km water main project to provide town water to those people living inside the investigation area, having been told this is a project of significance to the NSW Government,” said Hunter Water Interim CEO Jeremy Bath.
“I hope having access to town water residents sourced from Hunter Water’s network will provide some much-needed relief.”

The utility is also testing water storages to ensure that contamination hasn’t reached non-groundwater supplies, including Grahamstown Dam.

“Hunter Water publishes monthly the results of independent laboratory testing of its water sources, demonstrating that its water is free of PFOS/PFOA contamination,” Bath said.

While the connection project is being delivered in stages, due for completion by July 2017, Hunter Water has been involved in community awareness initiatives since mid-2015.

In February, the utility suspended the Australian Oil Refineries’ licence to discharge trade waste into sewer systems after PFOS/PFOA compounds were detected in wastewater at a rate of 116ug/L of PFOS and 1.14ug/L of PFOA.

Hunter Water’s Jeremy Bath said bans on commercial fishing due to potential PFOS/PFOA toxicity, as well as general business interruption, has caused financial hardship for communities.

“The financial impact posed by the fishing bans in Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove for local commercial fisherman can’t be overstated. People who have been working on these waters for generations have in the blink of an eye had their livelihood put on hold,” Bath said.

“Drive to Port Stephens and it’s clear that visitor numbers have dropped. Whether it be running a dog kennel, the local golf club or a bed and breakfast, activity has all but dried up. “

The Australian Department of Defence is undertaking a long-term environmental investigation and assessment of groundwater beneath the Oakey site, and surrounding areas, while water supply to businesses and parks in Adelaide’s northern suburbs have been cut during EPA assessment.

NSW Wild Weather

Dr Hannah Power Talks Coastal Erosion After NSW Wild Weather




With the wild weather across NSW earlier this month causing devastation across the state, Dr Hannah Power, Lecturer in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences was interviewed by The Daily Show on Sydney’s 2ser 107.3FM.

Dr Power was asked about the effectiveness of coastal walls and how rock structures impact beaches and surrounding areas

You can listen to Hannah’s interview here: 2ser radio interview.

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to
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