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315 nuclear bombs and ongoing suffering: The shameful history of nuclear testing in Australia and the Pacific

<p><em>Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this article contains the name of a deceased person.</em></p> <p>The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons received its <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/10/1076082">50th ratification on October 24</a>, and will therefore come into force in January 2021. A historic development, this new international law will ban the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.</p> <p>Unfortunately the nuclear powers — the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — haven’t signed on to the treaty. As such, they are not immediately obliged to <a href="http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Victim-assistance-short-4-8-18-final.pdf">help victims and remediate contaminated environments</a>, but others party to the treaty do have these obligations. The shifting norms around this will hopefully put ongoing pressure on nuclear testing countries to open records and to cooperate with accountability measures.</p> <p>For the people of the Pacific region, particularly those who bore the brunt of nuclear weapons testing during the 20th century, it will bring a new opportunity for their voices to be heard on the long-term costs of nuclear violence. The treaty is the first to enshrine enduring commitments to addressing their needs.</p> <p>From 1946, around <a href="https://icanw.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Pacific-Report-2017.pdf">315 nuclear tests</a> were carried out in the Pacific by the US, Britain and France. These nations’ largest ever nuclear tests took place on colonised lands and oceans, from Australia to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati to French Polynesia.</p> <p>The impacts of these tests are still being felt today.</p> <p><strong>All nuclear tests cause harm</strong></p> <p>Studies of nuclear test workers and exposed nearby communities <a href="https://www.ctbto.org/nuclear-testing/">around the world</a> <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-review-of-the-red-cross/article/humanitarian-impact-and-implications-of-nuclear-test-explosions-in-the-pacific-region/1FDB0D26842BEA5621F33A0B53FCD7F9">consistently show</a> adverse health effects, especially increased risks of <a href="https://www.ctbto.org/nuclear-testing/">cancer</a>.</p> <p>The total number of global cancer deaths as a result of atmospheric nuclear test explosions has been estimated at between <a href="https://scope.dge.carnegiescience.edu/SCOPE_59/SCOPE_59.html">2 million</a> and <a href="https://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/1991/06/RadioactiveHeavenEarth1991.pdf">2.4 million</a>, even though these studies used radiation risk estimates that are now dated and likely underestimated the <a href="http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n3873/pdf/ch08.pdf">risk</a>.</p> <p>The number of additional non-fatal cancer cases caused by test explosions is similar. As confirmed in a <a href="http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1667/RR14608.1">large recent study</a> of nuclear industry workers in France, the UK and US, the numbers of radiation-related deaths due to other diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, is also likely to be similar.</p> <p><strong>‘We all got crook’</strong></p> <p>Britain conducted 12 nuclear test explosions in Australia between 1952 and 1957, and hundreds of minor trials of radioactive and toxic materials for bomb development up to 1963. These caused untold health problems for local Aboriginal people who were at the highest risk of radiation. Many of them were not properly evacuated, and some were not informed at all.</p> <p>We may never know the full impact of these explosions because in many cases, as the Royal Commission report on British Nuclear Tests in Australia <a href="https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:%22publications/tabledpapers/HPP032016010928%22;src1=sm1">found in 1985</a>: “the resources allocated for Aboriginal welfare and safety were ludicrous, amounting to nothing more than a token gesture”. But we can listen to the survivors.</p> <p>The late Yami Lester directly experienced the impacts of nuclear weapons. A Yankunytjatjara elder from South Australia, Yami was a child when the British tested at Emu Field in October 1953. He <a href="https://icanw.org.au/wp-content/uploads/BlackMist-FINAL-Web.pdf">recalled</a> the “Black Mist” after the bomb blast:</p> <p><em>It wasn’t long after that a black smoke came through. A strange black smoke, it was shiny and oily. A few hours later we all got crook, every one of us. We were all vomiting; we had diarrhoea, skin rashes and sore eyes. I had really sore eyes. They were so sore I couldn’t open them for two or three weeks. Some of the older people, they died. They were too weak to survive all the sickness. The closest clinic was 400 miles away.</em></p> <p>His daughter, Karina Lester, is an ambassador for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Australia, and continues to be driven by her family’s experience. She <a href="https://icanw.org.au/choosinghumanity/">writes</a>:</p> <p><em>For decades now my family have campaigned and spoken up against the harms of nuclear weapons because of their firsthand experience of the British nuclear tests […] Many Aboriginal people suffered from the British nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s and 1960s and many are still suffering from the impacts today.</em></p> <p>More than 16,000 Australian workers were also exposed. A key <a href="https://www.dva.gov.au/documents-and-publications/british-nuclear-testing-australia-studies">government-funded study</a> belatedly followed these veterans over an 18-year period from 1982. Despite the difficulties of conducting a study decades later with incomplete data, it <a href="https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.pace.edu/dist/0/195/files/2018/10/Australia-PosObs-Country-Report-7-1zbngsb.pdf">found</a> they had 23% higher rates of cancer and 18% more deaths from cancers than the general population.</p> <p>An additional health impact in Pacific island countries is the toxic disease “ciguatera”, caused by certain microscopic plankton at the base of the marine food chain, which thrive on damaged coral. Their toxins concentrate up the food chain, especially in fish, and cause illness and occasional deaths in people who eat them. In the Marshall Islands, Kiritimati and French Polynesia, outbreaks of the disease among locals have been associated with coral damage caused by <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(89)91212-9/fulltext">nuclear test explosions</a> and the extensive military and shipping infrastructure supporting them.</p> <p>Pacific survivors of nuclear testing haven’t been focused solely on addressing their own considerable needs for justice and care; they’ve been powerful advocates that no one should suffer as they have ever again, and have worked tirelessly for the eradication of nuclear weapons. It’s no surprise independent Pacific island nations are strong supporters of the new treaty, accounting for ten of the first 50 ratifications.</p> <p><strong>Negligence and little accountability</strong></p> <p>Some nations that have undertaken nuclear tests have provided some care and compensation for their nuclear test workers; only the US has made some <a href="https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca">provisions</a> for people exposed, though only for mainland US residents downwind of the Nevada Test Site. No testing nation has extended any such arrangement beyond its own shores to the colonised and minority peoples it put in harm’s way. Nor has any testing nation made fully publicly available its records of the history, conduct and effects of its nuclear tests on exposed populations and the environment.</p> <p>These nations have also been negligent by quickly abandoning former test sites. There has been inadequate clean-up and little or none of the long-term environmental monitoring needed to detect radioactive leakage from underground test sites into groundwater, soil and air. One example among many is the Runit concrete dome in the Marshall Islands, which holds nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. It’s increasingly <a href="https://www.latimes.com/projects/marshall-islands-nuclear-testing-sea-level-rise/">inundated by rising sea levels</a>, and is leaking radioactive material.</p> <p>The treaty provides a light in a dark time. It contains the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons.</p> <p>It’s our fervent hope the treaty will mark the increasingly urgent beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. It is our determined expectation that our country will step up. Australia has not yet ratified the treaty, but the bitter legacy of nuclear testing across our country and region should spur us to join this new global effort.</p> <p><em>Written <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tilman-ruff-89">Tilman Ruff</a>, University of Melbourne and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dimity-hawkins-292972">Dimity Hawkins</a>, Swinburne University of Technology. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/315-nuclear-bombs-and-ongoing-suffering-the-shameful-history-of-nuclear-testing-in-australia-and-the-pacific-148909">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Traditional skills help people on the tourism-deprived Pacific Islands survive the pandemic

<p>Tourism in the South Pacific has been <a href="https://theconversation.com/sun-sand-and-uncertainty-the-promise-and-peril-of-a-pacific-tourism-bubble-139661">hit hard by COVID-19</a> border closures with thousands of people out of work.</p> <p>Tourism normally provides one in four jobs in Vanuatu and one in three jobs in Cook Islands. It contributes <a href="https://pic.or.jp/ja/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2018-Annual-Visitor-Arrivals-ReportF.pdf">between 20% and 70% of the GDP</a> of countries spanning from Samoa and Vanuatu to Fiji and Cook Islands.</p> <p>But our <a href="https://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/15742">research</a> shows how people are surviving – and in some cases, thriving – in the face of significant loss of income.</p> <p>This is due in part to their reliance on customary knowledge, systems and practices.</p> <p><strong>Islands impacted by border closures</strong></p> <p>The research involved an online survey completed by 106 people, along with interviews in six tourism-dependent locations across five countries.</p> <p>Research associates based in these countries did interviews in places such as villages next to resorts, or communities that regularly provided cultural tours for cruise ship passengers.</p> <p>They spoke with former and current tourism workers, community members and business owners who reflected on how they had adapted and what they hoped the future would hold.</p> <p>Almost 90% of survey respondents lived in households facing significant reductions in income. Owners of tourism-related businesses faced particular financial strain, with 85% of them saying they lost three-quarters or more of their usual income.</p> <p>But people showed considerable adaptive capacities and resilience in devising a range of strategies to meet their needs in the face of this dramatic loss of earnings.</p> <p>More than half the respondents were growing food for their families. Many were also fishing. People talked about using the natural abundance of the land and sea to provide food.</p> <p>One person from Rarotonga, part of the Cook Islands, said “no one is going hungry” and this was due to a number of factors:</p> <ol> <li>people had access to customary land on which to grow food</li> <li>traditional systems meant neighbours, clan members and church communities helped to provide for those who were more vulnerable</li> <li>there was still sufficient knowledge within communities to teach younger members who had lost jobs how to grow food and fish.</li> </ol> <p>One young man from Samoa, who had lost his job in a hotel, said:</p> <p><em>Like our family, everyone else has gone back to the land … I’ve had to relearn skills that have been not been used for years, skills in planting and especially in fishing … I am very happy with the plantation of mixed crops I have now and feeling confident we will be OK moving forward in these times of uncertainty.</em></p> <p><strong>Alternative livelihood options</strong></p> <p>People also engaged in a wide range of initiatives to earn cash, from selling products from their farms (fruit, root crops, other vegetables, cocoa, pigs and chickens) and the sea (a wide range of fish and shellfish) to starting small businesses.</p> <p>Examples included planting flowers to sell in bunches along the roadside, making doughnuts to take to the market, or offering sewing, yard maintenance or hair-cutting services.</p> <p>Goods and services were also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/08/two-piglets-for-a-kayak-fiji-returns-to-barter-system-as-covid-19-hits-economy">bartered</a>, rather than exchanged for cash.</p> <p>Sometimes social groups banded together to encourage one another in activities that earned an income. For example, a youth group near the resort island of Denarau, in Fiji, gained a contract to provide weekly catering for a rugby club.</p> <p><strong>When times are hard, it’s not all bad</strong></p> <p>Our study also examined four aspects of well-being: mental, financial, social and physical. Understandably, there was a clear decline in financial well-being. This was sometimes associated with greater stress and conflict within households.</p> <p>As one Cook Islands man said:</p> <p><em>There’s so many people in the house that we’re fighting over who’s going to pay for this, who’s going to pay for that.</em></p> <p>But the impacts on social, mental and physical well-being were mixed, with quite a number of people showing improvements.</p> <p><strong>How has COVID-19 impacted on the wellbeing of your family, household or community?</strong></p> <p>Many people were effusive in their responses when talking about how they now had more time with family, especially children. This was particularly the case for women who had previously worked long hours in the tourism sector. As one said:</p> <p><em>I feel staying (at home) during this pandemic has really helped a lot, especially with my kids. Now everything is in order. The spending of quality time with my family has been excellent and awesome.</em></p> <p>Others expressed satisfaction they had more time for meeting religious and cultural obligations. As one said, “everyone is more connected now”, and people had more time to look after others in the community:</p> <p><em>Extended family harmony has improved, particularly with checking welfare of others who may need help during this time.</em></p> <p>Business owners appreciated the chance to “rest and recharge”. As one Fijian business owner said:</p> <p><em>This break has given us a new breath of life. We have since analysed and pondered on what are the most important things in life apart from money. We have strengthened our relationships with friends and family, worked together, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.</em></p> <p>These early research findings suggest customary systems are effectively supporting people’s resilience and well-being in the Pacific. A Pacific ethos of caring, respect, social and ecological custodianship and togetherness has softened the harsh blow of the COVID-19-induced economic slowdown.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/regina-scheyvens-650907">Regina Scheyvens</a>, Massey University and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/apisalome-movono-1108178">Apisalome Movono</a>, Massey University. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/traditional-skills-help-people-on-the-tourism-deprived-pacific-islands-survive-the-pandemic-148987">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Marine protected area is long overdue: Humans threaten the Antarctic Peninsula’s fragile ecosystem

<p>Antarctica, the world’s <a href="https://media.nature.com/original/magazine-assets/d41586-018-07183-6/d41586-018-07183-6.pdf">last true wilderness</a>, has been protected by an <a href="https://www.ats.aq/e/antarctictreaty.html">international treaty</a> for the last 60 years. But the same isn’t true for most of the ocean surrounding it.</p> <p><a href="https://www.asoc.org/advocacy/marine-protected-areas">Just 5%</a> of the Southern Ocean is protected, leaving biodiversity hotspots exposed to threats from human activity.</p> <p>The Western Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of the continent and one of its <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0011683">most biodiverse regions</a>, is particularly vulnerable. It faces the cumulative threats of commercial krill fishing, tourism, research infrastructure expansion and climate change.</p> <p>In an <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02939-5">article</a> published in Nature today, we join more than <a href="https://homewardboundprojects.com.au/about/">280 women in STEMM</a> (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) from the global leadership initiative Homeward Bound to call for the immediate protection of the peninsula’s marine environment, through the designation of a <a href="https://www.antarcticanow.org/">marine protected area</a>.</p> <p>Our call comes ahead of a meeting, due in the next fortnight, of the <a href="https://www.ccamlr.org/en">international group</a> responsible for establishing marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean. We urge the group to protect the region, because delays could be disastrous.</p> <p><strong>Threats on the peninsula</strong></p> <p>The Southern Ocean <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-how-the-antarctic-circumpolar-current-helps-keep-antarctica-frozen-106164">plays a vital role</a> in global food availability and security, regulates the planet’s climate and drives global ocean currents. Ice covering the continent stores 70% of the earth’s freshwater.</p> <p>Climate change threatens to unravel the Southern Ocean ecosystem as species superbly adapted to the cold struggle to adapt to warmer temperatures. The impacts of climate change are especially insidious on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest-warming places on Earth. In February, temperatures reached a record high: <a href="https://theconversation.com/anatomy-of-a-heatwave-how-antarctica-recorded-a-20-75-c-day-last-month-134550">a balmy 20.75℃</a>.</p> <p>The peninsula is also the <a href="https://theconversation.com/humans-are-encroaching-on-antarcticas-last-wild-places-threatening-its-fragile-biodiversity-142648">most-visited part of Antarctica</a>, thanks to its easy access, dramatic beauty, awe-inspiring wildlife and rich marine ecosystems.</p> <p>Tourist numbers have doubled in the past decade, increasing the risk of introducing invasive species that hitch a ride on the toursts’ gear. More than <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/470576496/Polar-Perspectives-No-1-Is-it-time-for-a-paradigm-shift-in-how-Antarctic-tourism-is-controlled#download&amp;from_embed">74,000 cruise ship passengers</a> visited last year, up from 33,000 in the 2009-10 season.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-wants-to-build-a-huge-concrete-runway-in-antarctica-heres-why-thats-a-bad-idea-139596">The expansion of infrastructure</a> to accommodate scientists and research, such as buildings, roads, fuel storage and runways, can also pose a threat, as it displaces local Antarctic biodiversity.</p> <p>Eighteen nations have science facilities on the Antarctic Peninsula, the highest concentration of research stations anywhere on the continent. There are 19 permanent and 30 seasonal research bases there.</p> <p>Another big threat to biodiversity in the peninsula is the commercial fishing of Antarctic krill, a small, shrimp-like crustacean which is the <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2017.2015">cornerstone of life</a> in this region.</p> <p><strong>A cornerstone of life</strong></p> <p>Krill is a foundation of the food chain in Antarctica, with whales, fish, squid, seals and Adélie and gentoo penguins all feeding on it.</p> <p>But as sea ice cover diminishes, more industrial fishing vessels can encroach on penguin, seal and whale foraging grounds, effectively acting as a competing super-predator for krill.</p> <p>In the past 30 years, colonies of Adélie and Chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula have <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/41242231?seq=1">declined by more than 50%</a> due to reduced sea ice and krill harvesting.</p> <p>Commercial Antarctic krill fishing is largely for omega-3 dietary supplements and fish-meal. The fishery in the waters of the Western Antarctic Peninsula is the largest in the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00406.x">Southern Ocean</a>.</p> <p>The krill catch here has <a href="https://www.ccamlr.org/en/fisheries/krill">more than tripled</a> from 88,800 tonnes in 2000 to almost 400,000 tonnes in 2019 — the third-largest krill catch in history and a volume not seen since the 1980s.</p> <p><strong>How do we save it?</strong></p> <p>To save the Antarctic Peninsula, one of critical steps is to protect its waters and its source of life: those tiny, but crucially important, Antarctic krill.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838471/antarctica-3.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b40e7f32cd174fa39cb137d91ce94e0f" /></p> <p><span><em>Image caption: </em></span><em><u>A map of the current and proposed marine protected areas under consideration. Cassandra Brooks, Author provided</u></em></p> <p>This can be done by establishing a marine protected area (MPA) in the region, which would limit or prohibit human activities such as commercial fishing.</p> <p>An MPA around the peninsula was first proposed <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336888437_Protecting_Antarctica_through_Co-production_of_actionable_science_Lessons_from_the_CCAMLR_marine_protected_area_process">in 2018</a>, <a href="https://www.ccamlr.org/en/science/mpa-planning-domains">covering</a> 670,000 square kilometres. But the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (the organisation responsible for establishing MPAs in the Southern Ocean) has yet to reach agreement on it.</p> <p>The proposed MPA is an excellent example of balancing environmental protection with <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-take-marine-areas-help-fishers-and-fish-far-more-than-we-thought-119659">commercial interests</a>.</p> <p>The area would be split into two zones. The first is a general protection zone covering 60% of the MPA, designed to protect different habitats and key wildlife and mitigate specific ecosystem threats from fishing.</p> <p>The second is a krill fishery zone, allowing for a precautionary management approach to commercial fishing and keeping some fishing areas open for access.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838472/antarctica-2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/be0da721223d49479b289f835fa16b2b" /></p> <p><span><em>Image caption: </em></span><em><u>A map of the current and proposed marine protected areas under consideration. Cassandra Brooks, Author provided</u></em></p> <p>The proposed MPA would stand for 70 years, with a review every decade so zones can be adjusted to preserve ecosystems.</p> <p><strong>No more disastrous delays</strong></p> <p>The commission is made up of 25 countries and the European Union. In its upcoming meeting, the proposed MPA will once again be considered. Two other important MPA proposals are also on the table in the East Antarctic and Weddell Sea.</p> <p>In fact, for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/02/antarctic-marine-park-conservationists-frustrated-after-protection-bid-fails-for-eight-time">eight consecutive years</a>, the proposal for a marine park in Eastern Antarctica has failed. Delays like this are potentially disastrous for the fragile ecosystem.</p> <p>Protecting the peninsula is the most pressing priority due to rising threats, but the commission should adopt all three to fulfil their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269874896_Competing_values_on_the_Antarctic_high_seas_CCAMLR_and_the_challenge_of_marine-protected_areas">2002 commitment</a> to establishing an MPA network in Antarctica.</p> <p>If all three were established, then more than 3.2 million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean would be protected, giving biodiversity a fighting chance against the compounding threats of human activity in the region.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marissa-parrott-561432">Marissa Parrott</a>, University of Melbourne; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carolyn-hogg-1166504">Carolyn Hogg</a>, University of Sydney; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/cassandra-brooks-419939">Cassandra Brooks</a>, University of Colorado Boulder; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justine-shaw-299755">Justine Shaw</a>, The University of Queensland, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-cristina-marquez-1166518">Melissa Cristina Márquez</a>, Curtin University. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/humans-threaten-the-antarctic-peninsulas-fragile-ecosystem-a-marine-protected-area-is-long-overdue-147671">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Water on the Moon: research unveils its type and abundance

<p>The Moon was for a long time considered to be bone dry, with analyses of returned lunar samples from the Apollo missions showing only trace amounts of water. These traces were in fact believed to be due to contamination on Earth. But over the past two decades, re-analyses of lunar samples, observations by spacecraft missions, and theoretical modelling <a href="https://theconversation.com/digging-deep-in-search-of-water-on-the-moon-26775">have proved</a> this initial assessment to be wrong.</p> <p>“Water” has since been detected <a href="https://www.space.com/40481-moon-meteorite-mineral-hidden-lunar-water.html#:%7E:text=A%20mineral%20that%20requires%20the,moon%2C%20study%20team%20members%20said.">inside the minerals</a> in lunar rocks. Water ice has also been discovered to be mixed in with <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/115/36/8907">lunar dust grains</a> in cold, permanently shadowed regions near the lunar poles.</p> <p>But scientists haven’t been sure how much of this water is present as “molecular water” – made up of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen (H<sub>2</sub>O). Now two new studies published in Nature Astronomy <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-01222-x">provide an answer</a>, while also giving an idea of how and where <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9">to extract it</a>.</p> <p><strong>Water and more water</strong></p> <p>The term water isn’t just used for molecular water, but also also for detections of hydrogen (H) and <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/hydroxyl-group">hydroxyl</a> (OH). Although H and OH could be combined by astronauts to form molecular water at the lunar surface, it is important to know in what form these compounds are present initially. That’s because this will have an impact on their stability and location under lunar surface conditions, and the effort required to extract them. Molecular water, if present as water ice, would be easier to extract than hydroxyl locked in rocks.</p> <p>The presence of water on the Moon is scientifically interesting; its distribution and form can help address some profound questions. For example, how did water and other volatile substances arrive at the inner Solar System in the first place? Was it produced there or <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms11684#:%7E:text=We%20determine%20that%20a%20combination,the%20water%20in%20the%20Moon.">brought there by asteroids or meteorites</a>? Knowing more about the specific compound could help us find out.</p> <p>Understanding how much water is present, and its location, is also incredibly useful for planning human missions to the Moon and beyond. Water represents a key resource that can be used for life-support purposes – but it can also be split apart into its constituent elements and put to other uses. Oxygen could replenish air supplies, or be used in simple chemical reactions at the lunar surface to extract other useful resources from the regolith (soil composed of small grains). Water could also be used as rocket fuel in the form of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.</p> <p>This means that the Moon has great potential to become a refuelling base for space missions further into the Solar System or beyond. Its lower gravity and lack of atmosphere means it would require less fuel to launch from there than from Earth. So when space agencies talk of <em>in-situ</em> <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-build-a-moon-base-120259">resource utilisation at the Moon</a>, water is front and centre of their plans, making the new papers extremely exciting.</p> <p><strong>New research</strong></p> <p>Instruments on board various spacecraft have previously measured “reflectance spectra” (light broken down by wavelength) from the Moon. These detect light coming from a surface to measure how much energy it reflects at a specific wavelength. This will differ based on what the surface consists of. Because it has water, the Moon’s surface <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130389/">absorbs light at 3𝜇m wavelengths</a> (0.000003 metres). However, absorptions at this wavelength cannot distinguish between molecular water and hydroxyl compounds.</p> <p>Using the <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/SOFIA/overview/index.html">NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)</a> telescope, flown at 43,000 feet, the team behind one of the new papers observed sunlit sections of the Moon’s surface in wavelengths of 5-8𝜇m. H<sub>2</sub>O results in a characteristic peak in the spectrum at 6𝜇m, and by comparing a near-equatorial area as a baseline (thought to have almost no water) with an area near the south pole, this study reports the first unequivocal observations of molecular water under ambient conditions at the lunar surface at an abundance of 100-400 parts per million.</p> <p>This is several orders of magnitude too large for most of the water to be adsorbed onto regolith grain surfaces. Instead, the authors suggest that the water they have observed must be locked up inside glass formed by tiny meteorites impacting and melting already hydrated regolith grains. Alternatively, it could be present in voids between grain boundaries, which would make it easier to extract. Where exactly this water is sited would be of extreme interest for future explorers as it would dictate the processes and energy required to extract it.</p> <p>Luckily, the other paper used new theoretical models, based on temperature data and higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, to refine predictions of where conditions are right for molecular water to be trapped as ice.</p> <p>Previous research has shown already that there are such kilometres-wide “cold traps” in permanently shadowed areas <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/281/5382/1496.full">near the poles</a>, where water ice may be present. Evidence from orbiting spacecraft, however, was inconclusive about this being molecular water or hydroxyl. The new study finds that there are also abundant small cold traps where conditions permit water ice to accumulate – on the scale of centimetres or decimetres. In fact, such traps should be hundreds to thousands of times more numerous than larger cold traps.</p> <p>The team calculates that 0.1% of the total lunar surface is cold enough to trap water as ice, and that the majority of these icy cold traps are at high latitudes (&gt; 80°). This is particularly near to the lunar south pole, narrowing down the choice of future landing sites with the highest chance of finding trapped water ice. However, it is important to realise that the two studies investigated areas at different latitudes (55°-75°S vs &gt;80°S) and therefore cannot be compared directly.</p> <p>Nevertheless, these latest discoveries further enhance our understanding of the history of water on our nearest neighbour. They will undoubtedly strengthen plans for a return to the Moon. Instruments such as the European Space Agency’s (<a href="https://exploration.esa.int/web/moon/-/59102-about-prospect">PROSPECT payload on Luna 27</a>) will be able to make measurements on the Moon to “ground-truth” these tantalising glimpses of the wealth of information yet to be discovered.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-mortimer-125966">James Mortimer</a>, The Open University and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mahesh-anand-125967">Mahesh Anand</a>, The Open University. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/water-on-the-moon-research-unveils-its-type-and-abundance-boosting-exploration-plans-148669">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Australia expresses ‘serious concerns’ about invasive searches of women at Doha airport

<p>The Australian government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatar about an incident in which female passengers, including Australians, were taken off a flight bound for Australia and subjected to an invasive search.</p> <p>The incident happened at Hamad international airport in Doha earlier this month after a fetus was discovered in an airport bathroom.</p> <p>The story was broken by the Seven Network, which reported that “women at the airport, including thirteen Australians, were removed from flights, detained and forced to undergo an inspection in an ambulance on the tarmac.”</p> <p>According to the report, Qatari authorities forced the women to remove their underwear.</p> <p>A foreign affairs spokesperson said on Sunday: “The Australian government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar.</p> <p>"We have formally registered our serious concerns regarding the incident with Qatari authorities and have been assured that detailed and transparent information on the event will be provided soon.”</p> <p>The matter is being handled by Foreign Minister Marise Payne.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michelle-grattan-20316">Michelle Grattan</a>, University of Canberra. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/search/result?sg=efb3c23d-f61a-4045-8f10-bd77510f30c4&amp;sp=1&amp;sr=1&amp;url=%2Faustralia-expresses-serious-concerns-about-invasive-searches-of-women-at-doha-airport-148784">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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The first step to conserving the Great Barrier Reef is understanding what lives there

<p>Look at this photo of two coral skeletons below. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the same species, or at least closely related, but looks can be deceiving. These two species diverged tens of millions of years ago, probably earlier than our human lineage split from baboons and macaques.</p> <p>Scientists have traditionally used morphology (size, shape and colour) to identify species and infer their evolutionary history. But most species were first described in the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/027073a0">19th century</a>, and based solely on features of the coral skeleton visible under a microscope.</p> <p>Morphology remains important for species recognition. The problem is we don’t know whether a particular morphological feature reflects species ancestry, or evolved independently.</p> <p>Our new study <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1055790320302165">examined</a> the traditional ideas of coral species and their evolutionary relationships using “<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1755-0998.12736">phylogenomics</a>” – comparing thousands of DNA sequences across coral species.</p> <p>Our results revealed the diversity and distributions of corals are vastly different to what we previously thought. It shows we still don’t know many fundamental aspects about the corals on Great Barrier Reef.</p> <p>And after three mass bleaching events in five years, not having a handle on the basics could mean <a href="http://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3569/4/Draft-restoration-adaptation-policy.pdf">our attempts to intervene</a> and help coral survive climate change may have unexpected consequences.</p> <p><strong>How do we know which species is which?</strong></p> <p>Despite being one of the <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2010.00146.x">best-studied</a> marine ecosystems on Earth, there are fundamental knowledge gaps around the Great Barrier Reef, including:</p> <ol> <li>how many coral species live there?</li> <li>how do we identify them?</li> <li>where are they found across the vast Great Barrier Reef ecosystem?</li> </ol> <p>Finding the answers to these questions starts with accurate “taxonomy” – the science of naming and classifying living things.</p> <p>Identifying species based on how similar they look may seem straightforward. As Darwin famously said, closely related species often share morphological features because they inherited them from a common ancestor.</p> <p>However, this can be misleading if two unrelated species independently acquire similar features. This process, called convergent evolution, often occurs when different species are faced with similar ecological challenges.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/02/06/why-an-ichthyosaur-looks-like-a-dolphin/">classic example</a> of convergent evolution is dolphins and the prehistoric ichthyosaurs. These animals are unrelated, but share many similarities since they both occupy a similar ecological niche.</p> <p>At the other end of the spectrum, morphology can vary considerably within a single species. An alien taxonomist visiting Earth could be forgiven for describing the Chihuahua and the Irish Wolfhound as two distinct species.</p> <p><strong>Bringing coral taxonomy into the 21st century</strong></p> <p>We used molecular phylogenetics, a field of research that uses variations in DNA sequences to reconstruct genealogies. From corals to humans, molecular phylogenetics has revolutionised our understanding of the origins and evolution of life on Earth.</p> <p>Molecular approaches have <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_4">revolutionised</a> our understanding of the diversity and evolution of corals, shedding light on <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02339">deeper branches</a> in the coral “tree of life”. But within hyper-diverse, ecologically-important coral groups, such as the staghorn corals from the genus <em>Acropora</em>, we are still in the dark.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1055790320302165">Our new technique</a> addresses this by comparing thousands of key regions across coral genomes (the entire genetic code of an organism) to help identify species in this ecologically important group for the first time. This method will also allow us to identify morphological features that do reflect shared ancestry and help us recognise species when diving in the reef.</p> <p>About a quarter of all coral species on the Great Barrier Reef are staghorn corals, and they provide much of the three-dimensional structure fishes and many other coral reef animals rely on, just like trees in a forest.</p> <p>Unfortunately, staghorn corals are also highly susceptible to threats such as thermal bleaching and crown-of-thorns seastar predation. The future of reefs will be heavily influenced by the fate of staghorn corals.</p> <p><strong>The risk of ‘silent extinctions’</strong></p> <p>While we don’t yet know how many coral species occur on the Great Barrier Reef or how widespread they are, many species appear to have far smaller ranges than we previously thought.</p> <p>For example, we now know some of the corals on Lord Howe Island are endemic to only a few reefs in subtropical eastern Australia and <a href="https://www.mapress.com/j/zt/article/view/zootaxa.3626.4.11">occur nowhere else</a>, not even on the Great Barrier Reef. They evolved in isolation and bleach at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.14772">much lower temperatures</a> than corals on tropical reefs.</p> <p>This means Lord Howe Island’s corals are of far greater conservation concern than currently recognised, because <a href="https://theconversation.com/bleaching-has-struck-the-southernmost-coral-reef-in-the-world-114433">one severe bleaching event</a> could cause the extinction of these species.</p> <p>The risk of “silent extinctions”, where species go extinct without even being noticed, is one of the reasons behind the Australian Academy of Science’s <a href="https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/discovering-biodiversity-decadal-plan-taxonomy">Decadal Plan for Taxonomy</a>, which has led to the ambitious goal to document all Australian species in the next 25 years.</p> <p><strong>Intervening now may have unexpected consequences</strong></p> <p>In April, the <a href="https://www.gbrrestoration.org/reports#technical-reports">Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program</a> concept feasibility study found 160 possible interventions to help save the Great Barrier Reef. <a href="https://www.gbrrestoration.org/">Proposed interventions</a> include moving corals from warm to cooler waters, introducing genetically-engineered heat-tolerant corals into wild populations, and the harvest and release of coral larvae.</p> <p>What could go wrong? Well-intentioned interventions may inadvertently threaten coral communities, for example, through introduction or movement of diseases within the Great Barrier Reef. <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/c/cane-toad/">Cane toads</a> are a famous example of unintended consequences: introduced in the 1930s to control an insect pest, they are now wreaking havoc on Australian ecosystems.</p> <p>Any intervention affecting the ecology of a system as complex as the Great Barrier Reef requires a precautionary approach to minimise the chance of unintended and potentially negative consequences.</p> <p>What we need, at this time, is far greater investment in fundamental biodiversity research. Without this information, we are not in a position to judge whether particular actions will threaten the resilience of the reef, rather than enhance it.</p> <p><em>Written by Tom Bridge, Andrea Quattrini, Andrew Baird and Peter Cowman. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-first-step-to-conserving-the-great-barrier-reef-is-understanding-what-lives-there-146097">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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The first step to conserving the Great Barrier Reef is understanding what lives there

<p>Look at this photo of two coral skeletons below. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the same species, or at least closely related, but looks can be deceiving. These two species diverged tens of millions of years ago, probably earlier than our human lineage split from baboons and macaques.</p> <p>Scientists have traditionally used morphology (size, shape and colour) to identify species and infer their evolutionary history. But most species were first described in the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/027073a0">19th century</a>, and based solely on features of the coral skeleton visible under a microscope.</p> <p>Morphology remains important for species recognition. The problem is we don’t know whether a particular morphological feature reflects species ancestry, or evolved independently.</p> <p>Our new study <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1055790320302165">examined</a> the traditional ideas of coral species and their evolutionary relationships using “<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1755-0998.12736">phylogenomics</a>” – comparing thousands of DNA sequences across coral species.</p> <p><strong>Join 130,000 people who subscribe to free evidence-based news.</strong></p> <p>Get newsletter</p> <p>Our results revealed the diversity and distributions of corals are vastly different to what we previously thought. It shows we still don’t know many fundamental aspects about the corals on Great Barrier Reef.</p> <p>And after three mass bleaching events in five years, not having a handle on the basics could mean <a href="http://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3569/4/Draft-restoration-adaptation-policy.pdf">our attempts to intervene</a> and help coral survive climate change may have unexpected consequences.</p> <p>An international team of scientists have developed a new genetic tool that can help them better understand and ultimately work to save coral reefs.</p> <p><strong>How do we know which species is which?</strong></p> <p>Despite being one of the <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2010.00146.x">best-studied</a> marine ecosystems on Earth, there are fundamental knowledge gaps around the Great Barrier Reef, including:</p> <p>1. how many coral species live there?</p> <p>2. how do we identify them?</p> <p>3. where are they found across the vast Great Barrier Reef ecosystem?</p> <p>Finding the answers to these questions starts with accurate “taxonomy” – the science of naming and classifying living things.</p> <p>Identifying species based on how similar they look may seem straightforward. As Darwin famously said, closely related species often share morphological features because they inherited them from a common ancestor.</p> <p>However, this can be misleading if two unrelated species independently acquire similar features. This process, called convergent evolution, often occurs when different species are faced with similar ecological challenges.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/02/06/why-an-ichthyosaur-looks-like-a-dolphin/">classic example</a> of convergent evolution is dolphins and the prehistoric ichthyosaurs. These animals are unrelated, but share many similarities since they both occupy a similar ecological niche.</p> <p>Ichthyosaurs dominated the world’s oceans for millions of years.</p> <p>At the other end of the spectrum, morphology can vary considerably within a single species. An alien taxonomist visiting Earth could be forgiven for describing the Chihuahua and the Irish Wolfhound as two distinct species.</p> <p><strong>Bringing coral taxonomy into the 21st century</strong></p> <p>We used molecular phylogenetics, a field of research that uses variations in DNA sequences to reconstruct genealogies. From corals to humans, molecular phylogenetics has revolutionised our understanding of the origins and evolution of life on Earth.</p> <p>Molecular approaches have <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_4">revolutionised</a> our understanding of the diversity and evolution of corals, shedding light on <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02339">deeper branches</a> in the coral “tree of life”. But within hyper-diverse, ecologically-important coral groups, such as the staghorn corals from the genus <em>Acropora</em>, we are still in the dark.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1055790320302165">Our new technique</a> addresses this by comparing thousands of key regions across coral genomes (the entire genetic code of an organism) to help identify species in this ecologically important group for the first time. This method will also allow us to identify morphological features that do reflect shared ancestry and help us recognise species when diving in the reef.</p> <p>About a quarter of all coral species on the Great Barrier Reef are staghorn corals, and they provide much of the three-dimensional structure fishes and many other coral reef animals rely on, just like trees in a forest.</p> <p>Unfortunately, staghorn corals are also highly susceptible to threats such as thermal bleaching and crown-of-thorns seastar predation. The future of reefs will be heavily influenced by the fate of staghorn corals.</p> <p><strong>The risk of ‘silent extinctions’</strong></p> <p>While we don’t yet know how many coral species occur on the Great Barrier Reef or how widespread they are, many species appear to have far smaller ranges than we previously thought.</p> <p>For example, we now know some of the corals on Lord Howe Island are endemic to only a few reefs in subtropical eastern Australia and <a href="https://www.mapress.com/j/zt/article/view/zootaxa.3626.4.11">occur nowhere else</a>, not even on the Great Barrier Reef. They evolved in isolation and bleach at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.14772">much lower temperatures</a> than corals on tropical reefs.</p> <p>This means Lord Howe Island’s corals are of far greater conservation concern than currently recognised, because <a href="https://theconversation.com/bleaching-has-struck-the-southernmost-coral-reef-in-the-world-114433">one severe bleaching event</a> could cause the extinction of these species.</p> <p>The risk of “silent extinctions”, where species go extinct without even being noticed, is one of the reasons behind the Australian Academy of Science’s <a href="https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/discovering-biodiversity-decadal-plan-taxonomy">Decadal Plan for Taxonomy</a>, which has led to the ambitious goal to document all Australian species in the next 25 years.</p> <p><strong>Intervening now may have unexpected consequences</strong></p> <p>In April, the <a href="https://www.gbrrestoration.org/reports#technical-reports">Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program</a> concept feasibility study found 160 possible interventions to help save the Great Barrier Reef. <a href="https://www.gbrrestoration.org/">Proposed interventions</a> include moving corals from warm to cooler waters, introducing genetically-engineered heat-tolerant corals into wild populations, and the harvest and release of coral larvae.</p> <p>What could go wrong? Well-intentioned interventions may inadvertently threaten coral communities, for example, through introduction or movement of diseases within the Great Barrier Reef. <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/c/cane-toad/">Cane toads</a> are a famous example of unintended consequences: introduced in the 1930s to control an insect pest, they are now wreaking havoc on Australian ecosystems.</p> <p>Any intervention affecting the ecology of a system as complex as the Great Barrier Reef requires a precautionary approach to minimise the chance of unintended and potentially negative consequences.</p> <p>What we need, at this time, is far greater investment in fundamental biodiversity research. Without this information, we are not in a position to judge whether particular actions will threaten the resilience of the reef, rather than enhance it.</p> <p><em>Written by Tom Bridge, Andrea Quattrini, Andrew Baird and Peter Crowman. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-first-step-to-conserving-the-great-barrier-reef-is-understanding-what-lives-there-146097">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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How bushfires and rain turned our waterways into ‘cake mix’, and what we can do about it

<p>As the world watched the Black Summer bushfires in horror, we warned that when it did finally rain, our aquatic ecosystems would be <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-sweet-relief-of-rain-after-bushfires-threatens-disaster-for-our-rivers-129449">devastated</a>.</p> <p>Following bushfires, rainfall can wash huge volumes of ash and debris from burnt vegetation and exposed soil into <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13241583.2020.1717694?journalCode=twar20">rivers</a>. Fires can also lead to soil “hydrophobia”, where soil refuses to absorb water, which can generate more runoff at higher intensity. Ash and contaminants from the fire, including toxic metals, carbon and fire retardants, can also threaten biodiversity in streams.</p> <p>As expected, when heavy rains eventually extinguished many fires, it turned high quality water in our rivers to sludge with the consistency of <a href="https://theconversation.com/before-and-after-see-how-bushfire-and-rain-turned-the-macquarie-perchs-home-to-sludge-139919">cake mix</a>.</p> <p><strong>Join 130,000 people who subscribe to free evidence-based news.</strong></p> <p>Get newsletter</p> <p>In the weeks following the first rains, we sampled from these rivers. <a href="https://publications.csiro.au/publications/#publication/PIcsiro:EP206535">This is what we saw</a>.</p> <p><strong>Sampling the upper Murray River</strong></p> <p>Of particular concern was the <a href="https://www.visituppermurray.com.au/self-drive-touring/">upper Murray</a> River on the border between Victoria and NSW, which is critical for water supply. There, the bushfires were particularly intense.</p> <p>When long-awaited rain eventually came to the upper Murray River catchment, it was in the form of large localised storms. Tonnes of ash, sediment and debris were washed into creeks and the Murray River. Steep terrain within burnt regions of the upper Murray catchment generated a large volume of fast flowing runoff that carried with it sediment and pollutants.</p> <p>We collected water samples in the upper Murray River in January and February 2020 to assess impacts to riverine plants and animals.</p> <p>Our water samples were up to 30 times more turbid (cloudy) than normal, with total suspended solids as high as 765 milligrams per litre. Heavy metals such as zinc, arsenic, chromium, nickel, copper and lead were recorded in concentrations well above guideline values for healthy waterways.</p> <p>We took the water collected from the Murray River to the laboratory, where we conducted a number of toxicological experiments on duckweed (a floating water plant), water fleas (small aquatic invertebrates) and juvenile freshwater snails.</p> <p><strong>What we found</strong></p> <p>During a seven-day exposure to the bushfire affected river water, the growth rate of <a href="https://weeds.dpi.nsw.gov.au/Weeds/Duckweed">duckweed</a> was reduced by 30-60%.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.britannica.com/animal/water-flea">water fleas</a> ingested large amounts of suspended sediments when they were exposed to the affected water for 48 hours. Following the exposure, water flea reproduction was significantly impaired.</p> <p>And <a href="https://www.britannica.com/animal/freshwater-snail">freshwater snail</a> egg sacs were smothered. The ash resulted in complete deaths of snail larvae after 14 days.</p> <p>These sad impacts to growth, reproduction and death rates were primarily a result of the combined effects of the ash and contaminants, according to our preliminary investigations.</p> <p>But they can have longer-term knock-on effects to larger animals like birds and fish that rely on biota like snail eggs, water fleas and duckweed for food.</p> <p><strong>What happened to the fish?</strong></p> <p>Immediately following the first pulse of sediment, dead fish (mostly introduced <a href="https://australian.museum/learn/animals/fishes/european-carp-cyprinus-carpio/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhb36BRCfARIsAKcXh6FgK-8QaDVfHBgGRa_sUuqssocPb-i-0QBxs_JG98YNMek7AHgl-u8aAmRwEALw_wcB">European carp</a> and native <a href="https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/fish-species/species-list/murray-cod">Murray Cod</a>) were observed on the bank of River Murray at Burrowye Reserve, Victoria. But what, exactly, was their cause of death?</p> <p>Our first assumption was that they died from a lack of oxygen in the water. This is because ash and nutrients combined with high summer water temperatures can trigger increased activity of microbes, such as bacteria.</p> <p>This, in turn can deplete the dissolved oxygen concentration in the water (also known as <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/publications/factsheet-hypoxic-blackwater-events-and-water-quality">hypoxia</a>) as the microbes consume oxygen. And wide-spread hypoxia can lead to large scale fish kills.</p> <p>But to our surprise, although dissolved oxygen in the Murray River was lower than usual, we did not record it at levels low enough for hypoxia. Instead, we saw the dead fish had large quantities of sediment trapped in their gills. The fish deaths were also quite localised.</p> <p>In this case, we think fish death was simply caused by the extremely high sediment and ash load in the river that physically clogged their gills, not a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.</p> <p>These findings are not unusual, and following the 2003 bushfires in Victoria fish kills were attributed to a combination of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1442-9993.2008.01851.x?casa_token=Anjq4f3ZTWoAAAAA%3AM_B988ns0XYPpiKIDh38yznV8YK-JjB-i-wVNxzs90goAS4tc0TwfNCEQ4Iao5UTgwwKCO9_t4tq4W4p">low dissolved oxygen and high turbidity</a>.</p> <p><strong>So how can we prepare for future bushfires?</strong></p> <p>Preventing sediment being washed into rivers following fires is difficult. Installing sediment barriers and other erosion control measures can protect specific areas. However, at the catchment scale, a more holistic approach is required.</p> <p>One way is to increase efforts to re-vegetate stream banks (called riparian zones) to help buffer the runoff. A step further is to consider re-vegetating these zones with native plants that don’t burn easily, such as <a href="https://apsvic.org.au/fire-resistant-and-retardant-plants/">Blackwood</a> (<em>Acacia melanoxylin</em>).</p> <p>Streams known to host rare or endangered aquatic species should form the focus of any fire preparation activities. Some species exist only in highly localised areas, such as the endangered native <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/national-recovery-plan-barred-galaxias-galaxias-fuscus">barred galaxias</a> (<em>Galaxias fuscus</em>) in central Victoria. This means an extreme fire event there can lead to the extinction of the whole species.</p> <p>That’s why reintroducing endangered species to their former ranges in multiple catchments to broaden their distribution is important.</p> <p>Increasing the connectivity within our streams would also allow animals like fish to evade poor water quality — dams and weirs can prevent this. The removal of such barriers, or installing “<a href="https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/habitat/rehabilitating/fishways">fish-ways</a>” may be important to protecting fish populations from bushfire impacts.</p> <p>However, dams can also be used to benefit animal and plant life (biota). When sediment is washed into large rivers, as we saw in the Murray River after the Black Summer fires, the release of good quality water from dams can be used to dilute poor quality water washed in from fire affected tributaries.</p> <p>Citizen scientists can help, too. It can be difficult for researchers to monitor aquatic ecosystems during and immediately following bushfires and unmanned monitoring stations are often damaged or destroyed.</p> <p>CSIRO is working closely with state authorities and the public to improve citizen science apps such as <a href="https://www.eyeonwater.org/apps/eyeonwater-australia">EyeOnWater</a> to collect water quality data. With more eyes in more areas, these data can improve our understanding of aquatic ecosystem responses to fire and to inform strategic planning for future fires.</p> <p>These are some simple first steps that can be taken now.</p> <p>Recent investment in bushfire research has largely centred on how the previous fires have influenced species’ distribution and health. But if we want to avoid wildlife catastrophes, we must also look forward to the mitigation of future bushfire impacts.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul McInerney, Anu Kumar, Gavin Rees, Klaus Joehnk and Tapas Kumar Biswas. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-bushfires-and-rain-turned-our-waterways-into-cake-mix-and-what-we-can-do-about-it-144504">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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5 amazing swimming pools from around the world

<p>You’ll definitely want to add these unbelievable pools to your bucket list once we're allowed to travel again.</p> <p>These pools aren’t your average run-of-the-mill rectangular hotel pools. With jaw-dropping views, unique concepts, and even terrifying experiences, curiosity will definitely get the better of you when it comes to pool time. Here are some of the most unique pools our world has to offer.</p> <p><strong>Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837842/the-blue-lagoon.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/a7eedfbcba354178a76e85a1fe9bc1da" /></strong></p> <p>In Grindavik, Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous spots in the country because of its transcendent geothermal features. Heated water is vented naturally from the ground and remains at around 37 degrees Celsius. Some say that the water has healing powers for various skin diseases.</p> <p><strong>San Alfonso del Mar</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837843/san-alfonso-del-mar.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/959e6a7358a0466684d1cf029809f20c" /></strong></p> <p>Chile’s San Alfonso del Mar is a private resort in the beachside city of Algarrobo, and boasts one of the world’s largest man-made swimming pools. Spanning over 1000 metres, the deep end plunges to 35 metres. The annual maintenance fee is said to be over US$3 million.</p> <p><strong>Ubud Hanging Gardens</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837841/ubud-hanging-gardens.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c112f69b256f4d29ba0d96e4d92b7d33" /></strong></p> <p>Sharing its name with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens swimming pool in Ubud is located in a luxurious Balinese resort. The pool clings to a precipitous edge of the densely forested valley, allowing swimmers to overlook the trees from the elevated waters above.</p> <p><strong>SkyPark, Singapore</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837844/skypark-singapore.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/800c1b25927f41caa556aaff97f26b87" /></strong></p> <p>Skypark at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts an infinity pool 55 stories above ground. At the world’s most expensive hotel, the water flows over the edge of the building giving swimmers a jaw-dropping view of the city.</p> <p><strong>Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Africa</strong></p> <p><strong><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837840/devils-pool-at-the-top-of-victoria-falls.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/1826629db2144f90a7839aed3af37f78" /></strong></p> <p>At the top of Victoria Falls in Africa, one of the largest waterfalls in the world, this natural formation called Devil’s Pool can safely hold swimmers and give them an amazing view of the natural wonder. A rock wall sits at the edge of the pool preventing the water from pulling swimmers over the side.</p> <p><em>Written by Emma Taubenfeld. This article first appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/12-amazing-swimming-pools-from-around-the-world">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our <a href="https://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V">best subscription offer</a>. </em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Before and after: see how bushfire and rain turned the Macquarie perch’s home to sludge

<p>The unprecedented intensity and scale of Australia’s recent bushfires left a trail of destruction across Australia. Millions of hectares burned and <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-09/nsw-bushfires-kill-over-a-billion-animals-experts-say/11854836">more than a billion animals were affected or died</a>. When the rains finally arrived, the situation for many fish species went from dangerous to catastrophic.</p> <p>A slurry of ash and mud washed into waterways, turning freshwater systems brown and sludgy. Oxygen levels plummeted and <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/01/australian-fires-threaten-to-pollute-water/">water quality</a> deteriorated rapidly.</p> <p>Hundreds of thousands of fish <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-sweet-relief-of-rain-after-bushfires-threatens-disaster-for-our-rivers-129449">suffocated</a>. It was akin to filling your fish tank with mud and expecting your goldfish to survive.</p> <p><strong>Get your news from people who know what they’re talking about.</strong></p> <p>Hear from them</p> <p>Take, for example, the plight of the endangered <a href="https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/threatened-species/what-current/endangered-species2/macquarie-perch">Macquarie perch</a> (<em>Macquaria australasica</em>), an Australian native freshwater fish of the Murray-Darling river system.</p> <p><strong>A special fish</strong></p> <p>Macquarie perch were once <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/8e9c5e38-7b7f-4b91-9f8d-66fd90eca1c2/files/draft-recovery-plan-macquarie-perch.pdf">one of the most abundant fish</a> in the Murray-Darling Basin. Revered by the community and once responsible for supporting extensive <a href="https://finterest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/True_tales_of_the_trout_cod_book.pdf">Indigenous, recreational, commercial and subsistence fisheries</a>, they are an iconic species found nowhere else in the world. However, they have very specific needs.</p> <p>Macquarie perch like rocky river sections with clear, fast-flowing water, shaded by trees and bushes on the banks.</p> <p>Massive change wrought on our rivers over the past century means Macquarie perch are now only found at a handful of locations <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66632">in the Murray-Darling Basin</a>.</p> <p>One habitat - Mannus Creek near the NSW Snowy Mountains - is particularly special because it was relatively pristine before the fires. In fact, this creek contained the last population of the threatened Macquarie perch in the NSW Murray catchment. A <a href="https://researchoutput.csu.edu.au/en/publications/maccas-in-the-mannus-macquarie-perch-refuge-in-the-upper-murray">study in 2017</a> found a Macquarie perch population that was restricted to a 9km section of the creek but was doing quite well.</p> <p>That was until bushfire rapidly swept through the catchment <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/15/last-population-macquarie-perch-nsw-river-carnage-bushfire-ash-fish-species">in January</a> this year.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837783/sludge.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/53445f550027403b8fae8ba65c7f664d" /></p> <p>Some of us visited the creek three weeks after the fires. The intensity, ferocity and speed of the fires meant nothing was spared. The former forest floor was literally a trail of death and destruction – <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/fire-fallout-how-ash-and-debris-are-choking-australias-rivers">dead and charred kangaroos, wallabies, deer, possums and birds</a> were everywhere.</p> <p>All that remained of Mannus Creek was green pools in a blackened landscape, still smouldering days after the fire front passed. We immediately feared for the Macquarie perch we’d sampled, which were quite healthy less than a year before.</p> <p>To our surprise, some Macquarie perch had survived. But with most of the catchment fully burnt, and no vegetation to stop runoff, we knew it was a ticking time bomb.</p> <p><strong>A desperate rescue attempt</strong></p> <p>With little time, researchers had to remove as many fish as possible from Mannus Creek before the rains arrived. The plan was to create an “insurance population” in case rain caused the water conditions to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-12/native-fish-rescued-from-bushfires-in-kosciuszko-national-park/11953776">deteriorate</a>.</p> <p>They rescued ten fish. Days later, rain washed ash and silt into the channel. Within hours, the once-pristine creek became flowing mud with the consistency of cake mix.</p> <p>A government rescue team arrived a few days later to rescue more fish, and despaired at the “<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/wall-of-mud-and-ash-fish-disaster-moves-across-murray-darling-basin-20200123-p53u6i.html">wall of ash and mud</a>”.</p> <p><strong>An ark across Australia</strong></p> <p>Those ten individual Macquarie perch now live in an “ark” of at-risk species, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/15/last-population-macquarie-perch-nsw-river-carnage-bushfire-ash-fish-species">spanning government and private hatchery facilities</a>.</p> <p>The ark is housing not only the Macquarie perch <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/05/freshwater-hell-scientists-race-save-endangered-fish--bushfire-ash-stocky-galaxias">but other threatened species</a> too. The rescued individuals, and perhaps their entire species, would have almost certainly perished during runoff events without these interventions.</p> <p>Now a waiting game begins.</p> <p><strong>What next for the Macquarie perch?</strong></p> <p>Nobody knows for sure how many fish survived in Mannus Creek, nor how long it will take for the creek to recover. It could be <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/12/triple-whammy-hits-push-australian-rivers-crisis">years</a>.</p> <p>The challenge now is to support the rescued fish until it’s safe to either return them to the creek, or breed offspring and introduce them to their natural habitat.</p> <p>Fish must be kept healthy and disease-free in captivity, and enough genetic diversity must be maintained for the population to remain viable.</p> <p>If these rescued fish are held in captivity for too long, they might die. But equally worrying is that affected waterways may not recover in time to allow reintroduction.</p> <p>While maintaining the rescued populations, we must redouble our efforts to improve their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229658153_Smoke_on_the_water_Can_riverine_fish_populations_recover_following_a_catastrophic_fire-related_sediment_slug">natural habitats</a>.</p> <p>Burnt areas can allow pest plant and animal species to take hold and change habitats, so these threats need to be controlled. Finding similar, unburnt refuge areas is also crucial to prepare for future events and protect ecosystem resilience.</p> <p>Working through these considerations - and quickly - is essential to giving these species the best hope of survival.</p> <p>Funding, equipment and human resources are desperately needed to help our rivers recover. But we know that without an effective on-ground intervention, recovery could take decades.</p> <p>For the iconic Macquarie perch, that would be too late.</p> <p><em>Images: Luke Pearce.</em></p> <p><em>Written by Lee Baumgartner, Katie Doyle, Luiz G M Silva, Luka Pearce and Nathan Ning. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/before-and-after-see-how-bushfire-and-rain-turned-the-macquarie-perchs-home-to-sludge-139919">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Mammoth task: the Russian family on a resurrection quest to tackle the climate crisis

<p>On the banks of the River Kolyma, deep into the Arctic circle in north-east Siberia, lies a gently rusting Soviet-era tank. It doesn’t look out of place here. After all, just down the river is the hull of a half-sunken ship and the remains of an Aeroflot aeroplane fuselage that met an unfortunate end.</p> <p>The tank isn’t working at the moment – it’s hard to find parts – but until recently, it was driven by a bearded Russian wearing a beret, a cigarette clamped permanently between his jaws, taking a sort of macabre delight in destroying trees and churning up soil.</p> <p>This is Sergey Zimov who, together with his son Nikita, is carrying out an experiment on this scrubby patch of Arctic tundra: they want to restore the prehistoric “mammoth steppe” ecosystem and see if it proves their hypothesis that a grassland grazed by large herbivores has an effect on slowing down – or even reversing – the thawing permafrost.</p> <p>Currently the landscape is mostly larch forest with very low biodiversity. There are no animals, save for the odd moose and millions of mosquitoes. Meanwhile, Arctic temperatures are increasing <a href="https://www.npr.org/2014/12/18/371438087/arctic-is-warming-twice-as-fast-as-world-average">twice as quickly</a> as those in the rest of the planet, and the permafrost that covers 65% of Russia <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0592-8?fbclid=IwAR1GLrQiGpH_25nIjqH_ih4zp24YpbtvhF2nec3bUK8e9Hi8zYaD151Irws">is thawing</a>. Fast. Many of the buildings in the town of Chersky – where the Zimov experiment is based – sport deep cracks (some have collapsed altogether), roads are buckled and the ground is humped and hollowed.</p> <p>The clue to what counts as permafrost is in the name – permanently frozen ground. As with anything frozen, it is liable to thaw if temperatures get too hot. That is precisely what is happening all across the Arctic.</p> <p>Permafrost is difficult to define. It covers almost a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere and sequesters <a href="https://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card/Report-Card-2019/ArtMID/7916/ArticleID/844/Permafrost-and-the-Global-Carbon-Cycle">double</a> the carbon found in the atmosphere today. When frozen, the microbes that feed on the organic material found in permafrost are “asleep”. When it thaws, they wake up and the anaerobic respiration produced releases greenhouse gases.</p> <p>Officially, it’s soil that has been frozen for two years or more, with an “active layer” that thaws seasonally. But thanks to global warming, permafrost has been thawing with increasing magnitude, with all sorts of disruptive effects. A process called a “<a href="https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/31461/">thermokarst megaslump</a>” has opened up huge holes across the tundra and the bodies of mammoths are being found with <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/04/world/europe/russia-siberia-yakutia-permafrost-global-warming.html">greater frequency</a>, their flesh decomposing in the Arctic sun. Strange things are awakening. A couple of years ago, a team of Russian scientists reportedly found <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-roundworms-allegedly-resurrected-russian-permafrost-180969782/">30,000-year-old worms</a> in the permafrost which, upon being warmed up gently in a Moscow laboratory, began to wriggle around.</p> <p>Almost ironically, the mammoths exposed by the thawing of permafrost are what sparked Sergey Zimov’s hypothesis: that large herbivores are necessary to maintain the integrity of permafrost. The Zimovs use their tank to mimic the tread and destructiveness of the woolly mammoth in a 144km² fenced off area they call “<a href="https://pleistocenepark.ru/">Pleistocene Park</a>”.</p> <p>Recreating the mammoth’s former ecosystem might seem like an impossible task given the creature has been extinct for 4,000 years, but for the Zimovs this is a minor detail. They are concerned with ecological processes – the web of connection that produces a functioning ecosystem. The tank will do just fine as a mammoth-stand in, destroying trees and stimulating grass growth in its wake.</p> <p>There are animals in the park that play a similar role. Yakutian horses and reindeer have been purchased from local indigenous herders, and other creatures that haven’t lived in the region for a long time (yak, sheep, Kalmykian cow, musk ox, bison) have come from much further afield. There are around 120 animals in total, although deaths and births happen with regularity. Last summer, Nikita Zimov undertook a perilous journey by truck to transport 12 baby bison all the way from Denmark. The roads are dreadful for most of Northern Siberia, and then they disappear completely. Travelling by barge along the Kolyma is the only way in.</p> <p>A few seasons before that, an expedition to Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean to find musk oxen almost ended in disaster after their boat hit a storm. The discovery on return that all the oxen were males was a particularly frustrating one. The animals in the park roam where they please, encouraged to breed and forage so their behaviours <a href="https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/285824">have an effect</a> on the permafrost: trampling compacts ground and keeps it frozen, while grassland reflects solar radiation.</p> <p>Even though the tank remains out of commission, the Zimovs are hoping that soon they won’t need it at all. They’re hoping that one day a mammoth will return to the Arctic.</p> <p><strong>Resurrecting the dead</strong></p> <p>Sometime in the early 2000s, rumblings began in the scientific community of a new form of conservation that would potentially fix a growing problem. What if, instead of fighting what seemed to be an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn">increasingly losing battle</a> against extinction, you could potentially resurrect an extinct creature through cloning methods?</p> <p>Still reeling from the implications of Dolly the sheep in 1997, in 2003 a team of scientists in Zaragoza, Spain, managed to <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/the-10-minutes-when-scientists-brought-a-species-back-from-extinction/274118/">successfully produce</a> a clone of the extinct Pyrenean ibex, having previously collected genetic material from the last remaining individual of the species. Although the cloned calf only lived for ten minutes, the genie was out of the bottle: extinction didn’t have to be forever.</p> <p>Advances in genetic technology saw the arrival of CRISPR, a type of gene editing software that allowed for swift and cheap splicing of genomes. Now it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a viable cell for cloning – you could simply create a complete genome in a laboratory. This is what happened with <a href="https://reviverestore.org/projects/woolly-mammoth/progress/">the mammoth</a>, whose genome was sequenced in 2015, becoming the first extinct creature to be catalogued.</p> <p>While preserved mammoth bodies are common finds in Siberia, their flesh prevented from decomposition by permafrost, living cells begin to degrade at the point of death so a certain amount of cell degradation is inevitable. But by using CRISPR, a scientist is able to plug, say, the genome of an Asian elephant with the genes that make the physical traits of a mammoth (cold adapted blood, thick hair, small ears). Theoretically, if that genome was implanted into an egg and then fertilised, the Asian elephant in question would give birth to a mammoth, albeit one that is genetically a hybrid.</p> <p>De-extincting the mammoth in the future is a possibility, but the follow up question must surely be: what does one do with such a creature? Enter the Pleistocene Park. The vast expanse of tundra and cold temperatures, not to mention the ready-made connotations with a similar de-extinction “project”, Jurassic Park, mean it is the obvious place for any newly “resurrected” (hybridised, to be exact) mammoth to go.</p> <p>All this talk of restoration, rebirth and resurrection raises further questions: one of them being the ethical implications of “playing God”. But the other, larger question regards the role of humanity on the planet. We are now <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01641-5">unofficially</a> living in the Anthropocene – a new epoch that designates humans as top geological agents, leaving our mark in the rock and influencing just about every planetary process. Most of our actions are not positive ones, evidenced by the tide of environmental destruction, global warming and explosive levels of extinction left in our wake.</p> <p>Would resurrecting the mammoth be a way for humans to right past wrongs, or would it be an extension of the power and control we wield over a ravaged planet?</p> <p><strong>‘We are as gods’</strong></p> <p>I visited the Pleistocene Park in the summer of 2018 to attempt to answer this question. The mammoth is a bit of a thorny conversation topic to the Zimovs. Yes, Sergey Zimov strides around the tundra wearing a t-shirt sporting a stylised cartoon of the massive hairy elephant, but his son is quick to shoot me down when I ask about their level of involvement in de-extinction.</p> <p>“You have a lot of people believing in God,” he says. “And they don’t like this mammoth return. So I try and use it to bring attention to the park, but I don’t want any of the criticism!” But the relationship between de-extinction scientists and the park is difficult to ignore. A few weeks after I leave the park, the Zimovs are visited by the geneticist <a href="https://wyss.harvard.edu/team/core-faculty/george-church/">George Church</a>, probably the biggest proponent of mammoth de-extinction, and <a href="http://sb.longnow.org/SB_homepage/Home.html">Stewart Brand</a>, lifelong environmentalist and now supporter of what is termed a “good Anthropocene” (the idea that humans should use their power to benevolently steward the planet). “We are as gods,” Brand <a href="https://www.edge.org/conversation/stewart_brand-we-are-as-gods-and-have-to-get-good-at-it#:%7E:text=Stewart%20Brand%20Talks%20About%20His%20Ecopragmatist%20Manifesto&amp;text=Forty%20years%20ago%2C%20I%20could,to%20get%20good%20at%20it">famously quipped</a>: “And we have to get good at it.”</p> <p>I’m sceptical of this viewpoint. The Anthropocene concept is a <a href="https://theconversation.com/anthropocene-doesnt-exist-and-species-of-the-future-will-not-recognise-it-111762">flattening one</a>: it categorises all humans as the same, separated from nature, wreaking havoc on a lifeless Earth. It distributes blame equally, rather than directed towards the worst polluters. It ignores the uneven and ongoing effects of climate change on different parts of the globe. Planetary stewardship – no matter how benevolent – reinforces this idea. It suggests things can, and should, be controlled.</p> <p>But I don’t see much evidence of this control during my time at the park. The first day I’m taken there (it’s a 30 minute boat ride away from the science station that houses visitors) Nikita Zimov is informed by his rangers that the herd of musk oxen hasn’t been seen for days so he heads into the undergrowth to find the animals. I’m left alone, surrounded by flooded plains, no animals to be seen save for a blind yak.</p> <p>A few days later, the permafrost tunnel floods. A sort of underground laboratory dug to house permafrost cores, scientific equipment and frozen fish, it was supposedly placed at a high enough level that the annual floodwaters of the Kolyma would never reach the entrance - until they did. We spend a day pumping the water out and dislodging the items that had stuck fast to the frozen ceiling. A little way down the river, the expensive scientific equipment owned by a well-funded contingent of German permafrost scientists is submerged under water.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Zimovs are furious about the 12 baby bison they have purchased from an Alaskan herder, still stuck in their pen. They’re unable to find a pilot willing to fly them over in the creaky, old DC-4 plane they have found. Everything that seemingly can go wrong, does go wrong. The Pleistocene Park is showing encouraging signs of becoming a grassland ecosystem, and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-60938-y?sf232308455=1">initial tests</a> show the permafrost is thawing less within the park’s boundaries.</p> <p>But on the summer solstice (a swelteringly hot June day in the Arctic) we take a drill and some thaw depth probes to do some readings outside of the park, and the prognosis for the permafrost is not good. “We are fighting global warming,” Nikita Zimov says. “But global warming is fighting back.”</p> <p><strong>Tusk hunts</strong></p> <p>When permafrost makes the news, it’s never good. In early June, a fuel tank at the Norilsk power plant in Siberia <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52977740">collapsed</a> because of thawing permafrost and 17,500 tonnes of diesel spilled into the river. A lot of people live and work on top of permafrost in Russia, and at the time of the Soviet Union, thousands of people were lured to the Arctic on the promise of highly paid jobs and cheap houses as part of a plan to “master the North”. Now the Soviet Union is long gone, along with all the perks, and thawing permafrost is making Arctic life very difficult.</p> <p>A sort of black-market industry has emerged, with groups of men heading out onto the tundra for months at a time to look for mammoth bodies that thawing permafrost has exposed. <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/04/tracking-mammoths1/">They’re after the tusks</a> that can be sold for a hefty profit to China, by far the world’s top market for ivory goods. These tusk hunts are often dangerous, with the men using illegal high-powered water cannons to blast holes and tunnels in permafrost, hundreds of miles away from towns or hospitals. Those who find a tusk have struck white gold, but those that don’t (most of them) will lose money.</p> <p>There’s another tension too. To many Siberian indigenous groups, the mammoth is a sacred beast and mustn’t be disturbed – to do so could mean death. Tusk hunters face an often-agonising decision: to betray their belief system or to feed their family.</p> <p>I became aware of an uneasy relationship between tusk hunters and scientists when I visited the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, where I spent the winter in 2018. Yakutsk is the world’s coldest and largest city built on permafrost, and it has no roads in or out – in the summer you take the plane, in the winter the frozen rivers become ice roads and a thriving trucking network ferries supplies to and from the Arctic towns.</p> <p>The Mammoth Museum and the Melnikov Permafrost Institute are institutions dedicated to understanding permafrost and tundra flora and fauna. This includes the mammoth. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the funding for these institutions has dried up. The scientists at the permafrost institute can only wait for international researchers with big grants to show up.</p> <p>The museum has struck up an awkward partnership with a biotechnology company in Seoul, South Korea. Sooam Biotech is known for <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/08/dog-cloning-animal-sooam-hwang">cloning pets</a> (most famously, Barbara Streisand’s dog) and has made no secret of its desire to clone a mammoth. The Mammoth Museum is informed of any mammoth finds by tusk hunters and Sooam Biotech is offered first dibs on collecting genetic material from the body. In exchange, Sooam Biotech has financed a state-of-the-art laboratory and equipment for the museum.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Yakutian government has recently passed <a href="https://phys.org/news/2018-12-siberian-region-permafrost-planet.html">a law that protects permafrost</a>, enshrining the rights of Yakuts to live on top of solid ground. This law is mostly symbolic. Permafrost thaw is a result of global warming, yet it is Arctic Siberia that bears the brunt.</p> <p>These smaller, messier permafrost interactions say something important. The Pleistocene Park and the designs of scientists wanting to resurrect the mammoth work very much within a global narrative. The <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/907484977/pleistocene-park-an-ice-age-ecosystem-to-save-the">promotional material</a> for the park involve references to “the world’s best plan” and “saving the world”. Similarly to the way the Anthropocene concept flattens humanity, constructing the Earth on a purely global scale produces a potential future catastrophe that hasn’t happened yet. Think about any Hollywood disaster movie – we must do something to prevent it.</p> <p>Curating apocalypse in this way means the more local catastrophic events become seen as harbingers of a threat to come, rather than catastrophes in their own right. Permafrost makes the news as a “<a href="https://eos.org/articles/the-ticking-time-bomb-of-arctic-permafrost#:%7E:text=An%20Arctic%20ecosystem%20is%20in,than%20a%20decade%20to%20recover.">ticking time bomb</a>”, something that will blow up unless we do something about it. Yet the people who live in the Arctic, particularly indigenous groups and fragile communities like Chersky, are already dealing with an apocalypse and have been for some time.</p> <p>The unpredictability of permafrost – now very much impermanent – challenges those proponents of a good Anthropocene who believe we can control the planet.</p> <p><strong>Putting life on ice</strong></p> <p>Freezing, being frozen, staying frozen – they all suggest a period of stasis, of suspension. Permafrost itself indicates permanence, but that can no longer be said to be true. What to do, when the planet is warming and the Arctic is warming even faster? Build freezers, that’s what.</p> <p>Cryobanks have emerged in the past decade, often attached to museums, as a response to the rapid rise in species extinction. They offer a way to put “life on ice”, stored safely away until something can be done, be that captive breeding or de-extinction. Many of these projects have eschatological overtones – the <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/technology/the-lazarus-project-scientists-quest-for-deextinction-20150417-1mng6g.html">Lazarus Project</a>, <a href="https://www.frozenark.org/">The Frozen Ark</a> – and suggest that control can somehow be regained by turning the temperature down.</p> <p>The 42,000-year-old horse lying in Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum is dead. I can smell it. Its body had been found a few months earlier in a permafrost bank, and had been frozen in the museum’s freezer ever since. The horse has been so well preserved, it looks like it’s merely sleeping. A delegation from the pet cloning company Sooam Biotech is visiting Yakutsk to take samples, and I’ve been invited along to view the autopsy.</p> <p>The head of the delegation, and CEO of the company, is Hwang Woo-Suk – a once disgraced South Korean veterinary scientist who made <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1892198/">headlines in 2005</a> when he claimed he had cloned human cells. He hadn’t, and went from the pride of South Korea to a laughing stock overnight while claiming he had been deceived by a former colleague in the process. A few years later he began showing up in Yakutsk looking for mammoths and other prehistoric creatures. His pet cloning company makes him rich, but cloning a mammoth would bring global fame again.</p> <p>The Anthropocene may be the time of the human, but really it is the time of certain humans, or certain actions. Actions have consequences. The warming of the Arctic and the thawing of permafrost is but one of these consequences. The reaction to this, to attempt to regain control of planetary processes, whether this be through resurrecting the mammoth or restoring its habitat, is indicative of a commitment to a good Anthropocene that aims to continue human dominance on the Earth.</p> <p>Having lived on top of permafrost, felt my feet sink into the mushy ground and rolled a ball of it between my fingers like putty, I remain doubtful any of this will work. What impact the Pleistocene Park may have on the permafrost around it is negated thousands of miles away by yet another thermokarst megaslump or another Arctic wildfire. While Nikita Zimov is philosophical about this, saying “it’s better to walk rather than to sit and wait for death”, it’s difficult to imagine the park ever reaching a point where it can mitigate permafrost thaw across the world. The mammoth, should it ever be resurrected, would surely exist as a curio rather than a thriving species, a monument to the hubris of playing God.</p> <p>Those advocating a good Anthropocene mean well, but a much deeper state change is needed. The continuous layer of permafrost in Arctic Siberia is showing signs of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment/2018/08/exclusive-some-arctic-ground-no-longer-freezing-even-winter">becoming discontinuous</a> through thaw. Discontinuity, I think, must also be our path. We need to halt and refuse the destructive practices that have underpinned the last century and beyond if there’s to be any hope of doing better in the future.</p> <p>Discontinuity isn’t just a state of being, it is also a state of mind. The warming of the Arctic and the thawing of permafrost are huge concerns, yes, but attempts to force control of an increasingly out of control situation might well produce terrible gods rather than benevolent ones. Resurrecting mammoths – playing god – speaks to a doubling down of the mastery implied by the Anthropocene moniker.</p> <p>Discontinuity, conversely, allows for the creativity in thinking of futures that relinquish destructive human dominance. The Pleistocene Park may be one of these futures, or it may not be. The point is, by becoming discontinuous, we become attuned to a radical openness that allows for thinking differently – ethically, collectively, progressively – about our role as humans on a discontinuous Earth.</p> <p><em>Written by Charlotte Wrigley. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/mammoth-task-the-russian-family-on-a-resurrection-quest-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-138142">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Remote-work visas will shape the future of work, travel and citizenship

<p>During lockdown, travel was not only a distant dream, it was unlawful. Some even <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-is-a-once-in-a-lifetime-chance-to-reshape-how-we-travel-134764">predicted</a> that how we travel would change forever. Those in power that broke travel bans <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-the-dominic-cummings-affair-damage-boris-johnson-in-the-long-term-heres-what-history-tells-us-139514">caused scandals</a>. The empty skies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-should-give-us-hope-that-we-are-able-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-133174">hopes</a> that climate change could be tackled were a silver lining, of sorts. COVID-19 has certainly made travel morally divisive.</p> <p>Amid these anxieties, many countries eased lockdown restrictions at the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-532061480">exact time</a> the summer holiday season traditionally began. Many avoided flying, opting for staycations, and in mid-August 2020, global flights were <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104036/novel-coronavirus-weekly-flights-change-airlines-region/">down 47%</a> on the previous year. Even so, hundreds of thousands still holidayed abroad, only then to be caught out by sudden quarantine measures.</p> <p>In mid-August for example, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53773914">160,000 British holiday makers</a> were still in France when quarantine measures were imposed. On August 22, Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago were added to the UK’s <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53871078">quarantine list</a>, then Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53937997">the week after</a> – causing continued confusion and panic.</p> <p>This insistence on travelling abroad, with ensuing rushes to race home, has prompted much <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europe-travel-coronavirus/2020/08/20/a426b6e4-e23e-11ea-82d8-5e55d47e90ca_story.html">tut-tutting</a>. Some have predicted travel and tourism may cause winter lockdowns. Flight shaming is already a <a href="https://theconversation.com/flight-shaming-how-to-spread-the-campaign-that-made-swedes-give-up-flying-for-good-133842">cultural sport</a> in Sweden, and vacation shaming has even become <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europe-travel-coronavirus/2020/08/20/a426b6e4-e23e-11ea-82d8-5e55d47e90ca_story.html">a thing</a> in the US.</p> <p>Amid these moral panics, Barbados has reframed the conversation about travel by launching a “<a href="https://www.barbadoswelcomestamp.bb/">Barbados Welcome Stamp</a>” which allows visitors to stay and work remotely for up to 12 months.</p> <p>Prime Minister Mia Mottley explained the new visa has been prompted by COVID-19 making short-term visits difficult due to time-consuming testing and the potential for quarantine. But this isn’t a problem if you can visit for a few months and work through quarantine with the beach on your doorstep. This trend is rapidly spreading to other countries. <a href="https://forms.gov.bm/work-from-bermuda/">Bermuda</a>, <a href="https://e-resident.gov.ee/nomadvisa/">Estonia</a> and <a href="https://stopcov.ge/en/News/Article/Gov't_to_allow_int'l_citizens_to_work_remotely_from_Georgia">Georgia</a> have all launched remote work-friendly visas.</p> <p>I think these moves by smaller nations may change how we work and holiday forever. It could also change how many think about citizenship.</p> <p><strong>Digital nomads</strong></p> <p>This new take on visas and border controls may seem novel, but the idea of working remotely in paradise is not new. <a href="https://theconversation.com/digital-nomads-what-its-really-like-to-work-while-travelling-the-world-99345">Digital nomads</a> - often millennials engaged in mobile-friendly jobs such as e-commerce, copywriting and design - have been working in exotic destinations for the last decade. The <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/11597145/Living-and-working-in-paradise-the-rise-of-the-digital-nomad.html">mainstream press</a> started covering them in the mid-2010s.</p> <p>Fascinated by this, I started <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40558-020-00172-4">researching</a> the digital nomad lifestyle five years ago – and haven’t stopped. In 2015, digital nomads were seen as a niche but rising trend. Then COVID-19 paused the <a href="https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/has-covid-19-ruined-the-digital-nomad-ecf6772afda2">dream</a>. Digital nomad Marcus Dace was working in Bali when COVID-19 struck. His travel insurance was invalidated, and he’s now in a flat near Bristol wondering when he can travel.</p> <p>Dace’s story is common. He told me: “At least 50% of the nomads I knew returned to their home countries because of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office">Foreign Office</a> guidance.” Now this new burst of visa and border policy announcements has pulled digital nomads back into the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-to-be-a-digital-nomad-and-work-remotely-while-travelling-the-world-vn09rd7j6">headlines</a>.</p> <p>So, will the lines between digital nomads and remote workers <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-workplace-trends-will-shape-life-after-lockdown-138077">blur?</a> COVID-19 might still be making international travel difficult. But remote work – the other foundation of digital nomadism – is now firmly in the mainstream. So much so that remote work is considered by many to be <a href="https://theconversation.com/remote-working-the-new-normal-for-many-but-it-comes-with-hidden-risks-new-research-133989">here to stay</a>.</p> <p>Before COVID-19, office workers were geographically tethered to their offices, and it was mainly business travellers and the lucky few digital nomads who were able to take their work with them and travel while working. Since the start of the pandemic, many digital nomads had to work in a single location, and office workers have become remote workers – giving them a glimpse of the digital nomad lifestyle.</p> <p>COVID-19 has upended other old certainties. Before the pandemic, digital nomads would tell me that they <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40558-020-00172-4">despised</a> being thought of as tourists. This is perhaps unsurprising: tourism was viewed as an escape from work. And other established norms have toppled: homes became offices, <a href="https://theconversation.com/after-coronavirus-how-seasonal-migration-and-empty-centres-might-change-our-cities-139439">city centres emptied</a>, and workers looked to <a href="https://www.rightmove.co.uk/press-centre/village-enquiries-double-as-city-dwellers-escape-to-the-country/">escape to the country</a>.</p> <p>Given this rate of change, it’s not such a leap of faith to accept tourist locations as remote work destinations.</p> <p><strong>A Japanese businessman predicted this</strong></p> <p>The idea of tourist destinations touting themselves as workplaces is not new. Japanese technologist <a href="https://ethw.org/Tsugio_Makimoto">Tsugio Makimoto</a> <a href="https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Digital+Nomad-p-9780471974994">predicted</a> the digital nomad phenomenon in 1997, decades before millennials Instagrammed themselves working remotely in Bali. He prophesied that the rise of remote working would force nation states “to compete for citizens”, and that digital nomadism would prompt “declines in materialism and nationalism”.</p> <p>Before COVID-19 – with populism and nationalism <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-new-right-how-a-frenchman-born-150-years-ago-inspired-the-extreme-nationalism-behind-brexit-and-donald-trump-117277">on the rise</a> – Makimoto’s prophecy seemed outlandish. Yet COVID-19 has turned <a href="https://theconversation.com/overtourism-a-growing-global-problem-100029">over-tourism</a> into under-tourism. And with a growing list of countries launching schemes, it seems nations are starting to “compete” for remote workers as well as tourists.</p> <p>The latest development is the Croatian government discussing a <a href="https://www.total-croatia-news.com/lifestyle/45869-croatian-bureaucracy-2-0">digital-nomad visa</a> – further upping the stakes. The effects of these changes are hard to predict. Will local businesses benefit more from long-term visitors than from hordes of cruise ship visitors swarming in for a day? Or will an influx of remote workers create Airbnb hotspots, <a href="https://qz.com/quartzy/1574182/ahead-of-its-ipo-what-even-is-airbnb-anymore/">pricing locals out</a> of popular destinations?</p> <p><strong>It’s down to employers</strong></p> <p>The real question is whether employers allow workers to switch country. It sounds far-fetched, but Google staff can already work remote until <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2020/08/21/salesforce-joins-google-and-facebook-in-extending-work-from-home-to-next-summer/">summer 2021</a>. Twitter and 17 other companies have <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/354872">announced</a> employees can work remotely indefinitely.</p> <p>I’ve interviewed European workers in the UK during COVID-19 and some have been allowed to work remotely from home countries to be near family. At Microsoft’s <a href="https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/event/new-future-of-work/">The New Future of Work</a> conference, it was clear that most major companies were mobilising task forces and would launch <a href="https://theconversation.com/remote-working-is-here-to-stay-but-that-doesnt-mean-the-end-of-offices-or-city-centres-145414">new flexible working policies</a> in autumn 2020.</p> <p>Countries like Barbados will surely be watching closely to see which companies could be the first to launch employment contracts allowing workers to move countries. If this happens, the unspoken <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract#:%7E:text=The%20theory%20of%20an%20implicit,legitimacy%20to%20such%20a%20government">social contract</a> between employers and employees - that workers must stay in the same country – will be broken. Instead of booking a vacation, you might be soon booking a workcation.</p> <p><em>Written by Dave Cook. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/remote-work-visas-will-shape-the-future-of-work-travel-and-citizenship-145078">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Cruises are back! But here's what they look like in a COVID-19 world

<p>Travel agent Valeria Belardi was anxious as she prepared for her seven-day Mediterranean cruise in a world where COVID-19 is rampant.</p> <p>She was one of 3,000 pioneering cruise passengers onboard the MSC Grandiosa, which is the first cruise liner to return to the Mediterranean after the shutdown of the cruising industry.</p> <p>The voyage was a different experience, as there was constant COVID-19 testing, social distancing, hand sanitising and temperature checks, but according to Belardi, it was "relaxing and enjoyable".</p> <p>While MSC Cruises wouldn't confirm exact numbers, the Grandiosa was operating at about 60 per cent of its 6,300 passenger capacity.</p> <p>Belardi on board the cruise liner enjoyed pre-packaged snacks, swims in the pool and trips to the spa.</p> <p>"I think cruises could be the safest holiday, right now," said Belardi to <a rel="noopener" href="https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/future-of-cruising-coronavirus/index.html" target="_blank" class="_e75a791d-denali-editor-page-rtflink"><em>CNN</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p>Before boarding, passengers are tested for COVID-19 via a primary antigen test and a secondary molecular test.</p> <p>MSC Cruises representative Luca Biondolillo told CNN that one embarking passenger tested positive at both stages.</p> <p>"In accordance with the protocol, the passenger, as well as his travelling party, were denied boarding," said Biondolillo.</p> <p>"Additionally, other passengers who had reached the ship with the same van were denied boarding as they were close contacts of the one passenger who tested positive."</p> <p>The cruise involved day trips, with sightseeing in Malta and the Sicilian city of Palermo.</p> <p>However, the trips and excursions are pre-planned and tightly controlled. One family broke the rules during a port stop, who were denied reboarding the ship.</p> <p>"The health and safety protocols are put in place for the benefit of every single person," Biondolillo said. "There can be no breaking of the rules.</p> <p>"These people risked jeopardizing everybody else's holidays and health."</p> <p>Cruise operators are desperate to figure out a solution to travelling that keeps people safe.</p> <p>"We know that for every 1% drop in cruising that occurs worldwide, up to 9,100 jobs can be lost," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for industry body Cruise Lines International Association, told CNN.</p> <p>Golin-Blaugrund says CLIA is confident that cruising will recover as demand is already being seen for 2021 vacations and beyond, but, she says, with most cruise operations still suspended, that means up to 2,500 jobs being lost per day.</p> <p>"By the end of September, the worldwide impact will be $77 billion, 518,000 jobs and $23 billion in wages lost."</p> <p>Cruise lines are now finding themselves with excess ships, with Carnival Corporation announcing plans to remove at least six cruise ships from its fleet. The company has since posted a $4.4 billion loss for the second quarter of 2020.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Holland America also announced plans to offload four of its 14 ships: Amsterdam, Maasdam, Rotterdam and Veendam.</p> <p>"It's always difficult to see any ship leave the fleet, especially those that have a long and storied history with our company," said Stein Kruse, chief executive officer of Holland America Group and Carnival UK, in a <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.hollandamerica.com/blog/topics/news/four-ships-to-leave-the-holland-america-line-fleet-in-2020/" target="_blank" class="_e75a791d-denali-editor-page-rtflink">statement.</a></p> <p>Former crew members are not eager to return to cruise liners without it returning to normal either.</p> <p>Austrian dancer Conny Seidler has been keeping an eye on the cruise industry, but she's not sure about the new regulations.</p> <p>"I understand all the precautions and everything -- there is a reason behind it. But for me, it takes away all the reasons why people would go and work on the ship," Seidler tells CNN. </p> <p>"Because you would go on a ship because you want to travel the world, you want to see places."</p> <p>"People from poorer countries come to the ship to earn money and send it back home," she adds. </p> <p>"But what keeps those people sane, if you never go out, is you go to the gym or you go and socialize with your friends in the crew bar, these kind of things and that's all kind of been taken away."</p>

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Double trouble: Worse to come for black summer

<p>On a coastal holiday last summer, I was preoccupied. Bushfires were tearing through southeast Australia, and one in particular had me worried. Online maps showed it moving towards the last remaining population of a plucky little fish, the stocky galaxias.</p> <p>I’ve worked in threatened fish conservation and management for more than 35 years, but this species is special to me.</p> <p>The stocky galaxias was formally described as a new species in 2014. Its only known population lives in a short stretch of stream in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. A single event could wipe them out.</p> <p>On January 2 the bushfires forced my family and I to evacuate our holiday home. As we returned to Canberra, I was still worried. Fire maps showed the stocky’s stream virtually surrounded by fire.</p> <p>A few days later, I prepared for an emergency rescue.</p> <p><strong>In critical danger</strong></p> <p>The stocky galaxias is the monarch of its small stream; the only fish species present. I’ve been trying to protect the stocky galaxias before it was even formally recognised.</p> <p>Over the last century or more, the species has seen off threats from predatory trout, storms, droughts and bushfires. Snowy 2.0 is the latest danger.</p> <p>It’s listed as critically endangered in NSW and is being assessed for a federal threatened listing. Before the fires, there were probably no more than 1,000-2,000 adults left in the wild.</p> <p>As the fires burned, I knew we had to move quickly. I wanted to collect up to 200 stocky galaxias and take them away for safekeeping.</p> <p>Rainfall after bushfires is major threat to fish, because it washes ash and sediment into streams. Storms were forecast for the afternoon of January 15. So early that morning, myself and two colleagues, escorted by two staff from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, drove to the stocky galaxias stream.</p> <p>A colleague and I waded in and began electrofishing. This involved passing an electrical current through water, stunning fish momentarily so we could catch them.</p> <p>After 45 minutes we’d collected 68 healthy stocky galaxias. Woohoo! Further downstream we collected 74 more. By now, fire burned along the stream edge. We packed the fish into drums in the back of my car and drove out.</p> <p>We headed to the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ trout hatchery at Jindabyne, where we measured each fish and took a genetic sample. I felt immensely relieved and satisfied that we’d potentially saved a species from extinction.</p> <p>The fish have been thriving in the hatchery building. Stocky galaxias have never been kept in captivity before, but our years of field work told us the temperatures they encountered in the wild, so holding tanks could be set up appropriately.</p> <p><strong>Back to the stream</strong></p> <p>The captive fish can be used for breeding, but the species has never been captive-bred before and this is not a trivial task.</p> <p>When they’re reintroduced to the wild, the sites must be free of trout, and other invasive fish like climbing galaxias. Natural or artificial barriers should be in place to prevent invasive fish invasion.</p> <p>In late March I finally got back to the stocky galaxias’ stream to see whether they’d survived. At the lower stretch of its habitat, the fire was not severe and the stream habitat looked good, with only a small amount of ash and sediment.</p> <p>Upstream, the fire had been more severe. At the edge of the stream, heath was razed and patches of sphagnum moss were burnt. Again, sediment in the stream was not too abundant. But fish numbers were lower than normal, suggesting some there had not survived.</p> <p><strong>The fight’s not over</strong></p> <p>The stocky galaxias species might have survived yet another peril, but the battle isn’t over.</p> <p>Feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park have <a href="https://theconversation.com/double-trouble-as-feral-horse-numbers-gallop-past-25-000-in-the-australian-alps-128852">increased dramatically</a> in the last decade. They’ve degraded the banks of the stocky galaxias’ stream, making it wider and shallower and filling sections with fine sediment. This smothers the fish’s food resources, spawning sites and eggs.</p> <p>Before the fires, plans were already afoot to fence off much of the stocky galaxias habitat to keep horses out. Fire damage to the park has delayed construction until early 2021.</p> <p>The biggest long-term threat to the species is the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro development. It threatens to transfer an invasive native fish, the climbing galaxias, to within reach of stocky galaxias habitat. There, it would compete for food with, and prey on, stocky galaxias – probably pushing it into extinction.</p> <p>Despite this risk, in May this year the <a href="https://theconversation.com/nsw-has-approved-snowy-2-0-here-are-six-reasons-why-thats-a-bad-move-139112">NSW government approved</a> the Snowy 2.0 expansion, with approval conditions that I believe fail to adequately protect the stocky galaxias population. The project has also received federal approval.</p> <p><strong>Future in the balance</strong></p> <p>The stocky galaxias is unique and irreplaceable. I want my grandchildren to be able to show their grandchildren this little Aussie battler thriving in the wild.</p> <p>The damage wrought by Snowy 2.0 may not be apparent for several decades. By then many politicians and bureaucrats now deciding the future of the stocky galaxias will be gone, as will I.</p> <p>But 2020 will go down in history as the year the species was saved from fire, then condemned to possible extinction.</p> <p><em>Written by Mark Lintermans. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/double-trouble-this-plucky-little-fish-survived-black-summer-but-theres-worse-to-come-139921">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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How COVID-19 could impact travel for years to come

<p>In late 2019, <a href="https://www.iata.org/en/about/">the International Air Transport Association (IATA)</a> published its <a href="https://www.iata.org/contentassets/36695cd211574052b3820044111b56de/airline-industry-economic-performance-dec19-report.pdf">“Economic Performance of the Airline Industry</a>” report. It contained a 2020 forecast of 4.1 per cent growth in global air traffic demand and net post-tax profits for North American airlines of US$16.5 billion.</p> <p><a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/consumer-business/us-consumer-2019-us-travel-and-hospitality-outlook.pdf">Travel industry consulting firms</a> predicted the continuing pattern of travel growth across all of the major components of travel including hotels, cruises and surface travel as well as air. The forecast for travel was sunny, with few clouds on the horizon.</p> <p>Fast forward to the summer of 2020, and the IATA is forecasting the worst financial performance in the history of commercial aviation, <a href="https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/speeches/2020-06-24-01/">predicting a global loss of US$84 billion</a>. And the aerospace industry supporting airlines with equipment parts and services pronounced that 2020 is <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52468882">the gravest crisis the industry has ever known.</a></p> <p><strong>Permanent changes?</strong></p> <p>Let’s review the lessons being learned by the travel industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and how travel might be different as the world deals with the aftermath.</p> <p>Travel has evolved significantly in the past six months since the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will likely <a href="https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/virus-will-make-everything-you-hate-about-flying-worse">be a number of current initiatives in passenger and facility hygiene and sanitation</a> that will stay in place post-pandemic.</p> <p>The woes of cruise ship operators, in the meantime, will continue as travellers continue to remain wary of travel in confined spaces.</p> <p>Public health officials have identified <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-aviation-guidance-for-operators#social-distancing">three societal practices that are key to controlling the spread of COVID-19</a>, each of which have an impact on the allure of travel — social distancing of two metres, frequent and intense hand-washing to reduce the risk of hand-borne transmission of the virus to the face, and face coverings in confined spaces.</p> <p>While it’s generally accepted that the minimum social distancing cannot be maintained while travelling in today’s commercial aircraft, some carriers — <a href="https://www.citynews1130.com/2020/07/03/air-canada-physical-distancing-flight/">though not all, including Air Canada</a> — have adopted <a href="https://news.delta.com/delta-blocking-middle-seats-pausing-automatic-advance-upgrades-and-more-enable-more-space-safer">a policy of leaving an open seat beside a passenger</a>.</p> <p><strong>Empty middle seats</strong></p> <p>This initiative has attracted the attention of both public health officials as well air transport executives and associations, resulting in <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-merkley-to-propose-bill-blocking-middle-seats-on-planes-2020-7">an attempts by an American legislator to regulate empty middle seats on flights</a>. Airline executives have predicted a <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/travel/ryanair-ceo-middle-seats-idiotic-airline-fly">dire financial impact</a> from this attempt to ease crowding on airliners.</p> <p>Quarantines are also being used by authorities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from travellers arriving from jurisdictions that have a higher level of virus cases.</p> <p>These quarantines range <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/do-you-have-quarantine-after-flying-california-1518697">from in-country travel bans among states or provinces</a> to <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/travel/12233400/spain-quarantine-travel-ban-france-germany-holidays/">national quarantines for travellers arriving from high-risk regions</a>. Typical quarantine provisions can range from seven days to 14 days of self-isolation, with some authorities imposing <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/03/17/alarming-coronavirus-surveillance-bracelets-now-in-peoples-homes-heres-what-they-do/#358eaa174533">strict adherence through personal monitoring systems</a>.</p> <p>Travellers’ health concerns are being reinforced by public health officials <a href="https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/USP_Public-health_final-letter-shutdowns_V2.pdf">who are advocating for a return to lockdowns</a> and advisories to refrain from travel, including from the top infectious disease expert in the United States, Anthony Fauci, <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/anthony-fauci-tells-marketwatch-i-would-not-get-on-a-plane-or-eat-inside-a-restaurant-2020-07-24">who has raised concerns about the risks of getting on an aircraft</a>. The debate between <a href="https://winnipeg.citynews.ca/2020/05/04/taking-temperatures-to-screen-for-covid-19/">public health officials and airline executives will undoubtedly remain tense</a> as the world continues to grapple with the first wave, and in some places a second wave, of COVID-19 outbreaks.</p> <p><strong>‘Travel bubbles’</strong></p> <p>A growing number of countries have allowed the travel industry to <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors#countries-and-territories-with-no-self-isolation-on-arrival-in-england">promote “travel bubbles” and “corona corridors” as first steps</a> to jumpstart air travel and tourism. These measures involve agreements with neighbouring regions that allow for travel across borders for non-essential trips without quarantining upon arrival.</p> <p>But there’s still the risk that such efforts will be short-lived given <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/25/reimposition-quarantine-hits-spain-struggling-tourism-sector">the resurgence of COVID-19 and the subsequent reimposition of quarantine practices in various parts of the world, including Spain</a>.</p> <p>The need to develop an <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/digital-contact-tracing.pdf">effective contact tracing platform</a> that would have global connectivity has been broached, but it remains in the discussion stage only. Issues such as <a href="http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20200609000957">personal information rights and general distribution of location data have raised privacy concerns in a number of countries</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.icao.int/about-icao/Pages/default.aspx">International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)</a> has recommended several data-sharing practices, but the UN body also acknowledges <a href="https://www.icao.int/covid/cart/Pages/CART-Take-off.aspx">that a global, harmonized deployment ought to be a guiding principle to successfully contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic</a>.</p> <p>IATA has also <a href="https://www.iata.org/contentassets/f1163430bba94512a583eb6d6b24aa56/covid-medical-evidence-for-strategies-200609.pdf">produced a set of guidelines for a gradual return of air services</a></p> <p>The consensus among public health officials and travel industry executives is that travel <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/karenrobinsonjacobs/2020/07/23/american-southwest-see-3-billion-in-red-ink-as-coronavirus-fears-keep-passengers-grounded/#34db0e9e31c3">will continue to stagnate until a COVID-19 vaccine is effectively administered globally</a>.</p> <p>But questions remain.</p> <p><strong>Will the industry survive until a vaccine?</strong></p> <p>How long until there’s a vaccine, and can the travel industry survive until then?</p> <p>What role should governments play in ensuring the survival of the travel industry as it waits for the vaccine?</p> <p>Will public health pressure be sufficient to overcome the reticence to share personal contact movement and information?</p> <p>As the world progresses towards a COVID-19 vaccine and the eventual control of the virus, the travel industry will most certainly <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2020/06/15/11-ways-pandemic-will-change-travel/">face demands from the travelling public to maintain several of the current safety and hygiene initiatives</a>.</p> <p>Cleanliness and sanitization will become the norm. Touchless interactions will proliferate, and technology will reduce human interaction.</p> <p>Will the joy and exhilaration of travel return? Yes, but with a <a href="https://explaincovid.org/other/think-about-flying-on-an-airplane">new value proposition built around safe and secure travel</a>. Much like air travel changed after 9/11 with security screening, so will COVID-19 change our demands for a safe, clean travel experience.</p> <p><em>Written by John Gradek. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-covid-19-could-impact-travel-for-years-to-come-142971">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

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Coronavirus risks in public bathrooms: What goes into the toilet doesn’t always stay there

<p>Most public restrooms are grungy in the best of times. Now, we have the coronavirus risk to contend with, too. There are lots of risks – dirty sinks and door handles, airborne particles and other people in small, enclosed spaces who may or may not be breathing out the coronavirus.</p> <p>So, how do you stay safe when you’re away from home and you’ve really got to go?</p> <p>As a medical doctor and epidemiologist, I study infectious diseases involving the gastrointestinal tract. Here are four things to pay attention to when it comes to any public restroom.</p> <p><strong>What goes into the toilet doesn’t always stay there</strong></p> <p>Have you ever thought about what happens when you flush a toilet?</p> <p>Scientists who worry about disease transmission in hospitals have, and their findings are worth remembering when you’re in a public restroom.</p> <p>All that bubbling, swirling and splashing <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02786826.2013.814911">can aerosolize fecal waste</a>, sending tiny particles airborne. A <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-018-0301-9">study on hospital bathrooms</a> found that the amount of those particles spiked after a toilet was flushed, and the concentration in the air remained high 30 minutes later. It didn’t matter if the test was done right next to the toilet or 3 feet away. Second and third flushes continued to spread particles. Another study, published June 16, simulated toilet plumes from flushing and also found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0013318">a large number of particles rose above the toilet seat</a> and lingered in the air. The scientists’ advice: close the lid before flushing.</p> <p>Researchers have found that the new coronavirus, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-1253(20)30083-2">SARS-CoV-2, can be shed in feces for up to a month</a> after the illness. That’s longer than in respiratory samples, though how much of that time the virus could be causing infections and whether the virus has infected humans through fecal waste <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html">isn’t yet known</a>.</p> <p><strong>Surfaces can harbor the virus, so wash up</strong></p> <p>The aerosols generated when <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2006874117">someone infected with coronavirus coughs or even talks</a> can be inhaled, of course, but they also settle out on surrounding surfaces, such as bathroom counter tops.</p> <p>To stay safe, be extra careful and touch as little as possible in public restrooms, including door handles. Whatever you do, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/well/live/coronavirus-spread-transmission-face-touching-hands.html">don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth</a> after touching these surfaces – your mucous membranes are the coronavirus’s entryway into your body.</p> <p>When you’re done, <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-hand-washing-really-is-as-important-as-doctors-say-132840">thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water</a>, and maybe <a href="http://doi.org/10.1111/jam.13014">skip the hot-air hand dryer</a>, which can also create aerosols and blow them toward you.</p> <p>Carrying face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes with you can help you be prepared, particularly if the facilities lack soap or running water.</p> <p><strong>Enclosed spaces are a problem</strong></p> <p>The air in an enclosed space like a public restroom can have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30245-9">coronavirus particles in it for several hours</a> after someone infectious with COVID-19 was there.</p> <p>Scientists still don’t know how <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-we-do-and-do-not-know-about-covid-19s-infectious-dose-and-viral-load-135991">much of the virus you have to take in</a> to become infected, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Limiting the amount of time spent in any enclosed indoor space – restrooms and <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-lower-your-coronavirus-risk-while-eating-out-restaurant-advice-from-an-infectious-disease-expert-138925">restaurants</a> included – can reduce the potential for getting sick from the coronavirus.</p> <p><strong>Wear a mask, and walk out if others aren’t</strong></p> <p>One of the more insidious characteristics of the new coronavirus is that someone infected with the virus can be spreading it <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25774/chapter/1#3">two to three days before they show any symptoms</a>. Some people don’t show symptoms at all, but they can still be infectious for days.</p> <p>Based on surveillance during the Princess cruise ship outbreak in Yokohama, Japan, <a href="http://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.10.2000180">15 to 20% of the people tested positive</a> for the coronavirus had no symptoms. <a href="http://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.10182">Data from Wuhan, China</a>, put the number of asymptomatic cases at closer to 40%.</p> <p>Keeping <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa189">at least 6 feet away from others</a> and wearing a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0843-2">mask can help you avoid spreading the coronavirus</a> if you’re asymptomatic and don’t realize it. They can also help protect you, though social distancing in small public restrooms isn’t always possible.</p> <p>If someone else is in the restroom without a mask on, the best advice is to walk out. It isn’t worth the risk.</p> <p><em>Written by William Petri. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-goes-into-the-toilet-doesnt-always-stay-there-and-other-coronavirus-risks-in-public-bathrooms-139637">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Antarctica without windchill and the Louvre without queues: How to travel the world from home

<p>SpaceX’s recent <a href="https://theconversation.com/spacexs-historic-launch-gives-australias-booming-space-industry-more-room-to-fly-139760">Falcon 9 rocket launch</a> proves humanity has come leaps and bounds in its effort to reach other worlds. But now there’s a quicker, safer and environmentally friendlier way to travel to the centre of the galaxy – and you can do it too.</p> <p><a href="https://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2020/gcenter/">NASA</a> has co-developed a free virtual reality (VR) adventure providing 500 years of travel around the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The experience is available to download from two major VR stores, <a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/1240350/Galactic_Center_VR/">Steam</a> and <a href="https://www.viveport.com/21f8b24c-783b-4af2-8e81-a63a14553721">Viewport</a>, in a non-collapsed star system near you.</p> <p>And this kind of spacefaring may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of virtual travel and tourism.</p> <p><strong>The virtual travel bug</strong></p> <p>Simply speaking, VR refers to technology that immerses users in a computer-generated world that removes them from reality. Augmented Reality (AR), however, aims to superimpose virtual imagery over a user’s view of the real world. Pokémon Go is a popular AR game.</p> <p>VR-based tourism has a longer history than you might think. In the 1850s, it involved staring at <a href="https://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/stereo/background.html">stereographs</a> with a <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/sterographs-original-virtual-reality-180964771/">stereoscope</a>. With this invention, viewers looked at slightly different images through each eye, which were then assembled by the brain to make a new image providing the illusion of spatial depth (in other words, a 3D effect).</p> <p>A century later, 1950s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinerama">Cinerama</a> widescreen viewing inspired cinematic travel though its large, curved screens and multiple cameras.</p> <p>The 1960s <a href="https://www.engadget.com/2014-02-16-morton-heiligs-sensorama-simulator.html">Sensorama</a> foretold a shiny future of multimodal immersive cinematic experiences, playing 3D films with sound, scents and wind to immerse users. In <a href="https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html">VR circles</a>, Ivan Sutherland became famous for inventing the head-mounted display, as well as augmented reality (AR).</p> <p>Travel restrictions under COVID-19 <a href="https://www.ft.com/virtualtravel">present an opportunity</a> for virtual reality travel to finally take off.</p> <p>In an era of lockdowns and social distancing, we could use VR to travel to remote, distant or even no longer existing places. Remote tourism is here (the <a href="https://www.remote-tourism.com/">Faroe Islands</a> offers a great example), and interest in VR tourism is <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2020/03/18/virtual-reality-and-tourism-whats-already-happening-is-it-the-future/#5b39a26228a6">blossoming</a>.</p> <p><strong>VR comes in many forms</strong></p> <p>The word “virtual” can refer to an immersive 3D experience, but also 360° panorama photographs and movies (a <a href="https://wiki.panotools.org/Panorama_formats">cylinder, sphere or cube of photographs</a>).</p> <p>What is deemed “virtual” varies greatly across different devices and platforms. Let’s look at some of the ways this term is applied.</p> <p><strong>Desktop virtual environments</strong>: these are computer-based 3D environments on a flat screen, without the spatial immersion of VR platforms.</p> <p><strong>Cinematic VR</strong>: these are phone-based panoramic environments. Many desktop experiences of 360° movies or images can be conveyed in low-cost <a href="https://arvr.google.com/cardboard/">stereoscopic VR through smartphones</a>. Google Street view can be viewed in <a href="https://www.blog.google/products/google-vr/get-closer-look-street-view-google-earth-vr/">Google VR</a> on Android and <a href="https://3g.co.uk/guides/what-smartphones-work-with-virtual-reality">some Apple</a> smartphones, but it’s not real VR.</p> <p><strong>Head-mounted displays</strong>: HMDs such as <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-Google-Cardboard/">Google Cardboard</a> and <a href="https://arvr.google.com/daydream/smartphonevr/">Google Daydream</a> are what many people think of when they hear “virtual reality”. Some HMDs are self-contained, not requiring connection to a computer or console. Arguably, the market is <a href="https://3dinsider.com/oculus-vs-htc-vive-vs-psvr/">dominated</a> by the Oculus range owned by Facebook, the HTC Vive range, and PlayStation VR.</p> <p><strong>VR in a pandemic</strong></p> <p>In a post-coronavirus age, device sharing is problematic. HMDs aren’t easy to clean and VR software can quickly become obsolete, with new headsets sometimes not running two-year-old software. Users also have to deal with costly updates, eyestrain, and having to share displays that sat on someone else’s face.</p> <p>Developing and sharing content across different devices can be a nightmare but there are increasingly <a href="https://www.vrtourviewer.com/">simple</a> and effective ways to create <a href="https://www.pocket-lint.com/ar-vr/news/google/142054-google-arcore-android-s-equivalent-to-apple-arkit-explained">AR</a> and VR content, despite a bewildering range of platforms and equipment (there are more than <a href="https://www.archives.gov/files/applied-research/ncsa/8-an-overview-of-3d-data-content-file-formats-and-viewers.pdf">140 3D file formats</a>).</p> <p>Despite this, many VR projects are not preserved – including <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/11/8/2425">virtual heritage</a> projects! Even for the largest HMD companies, supplies can be <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/20/21177442/half-life-alyx-vr-headset-compatible-valve-oculus-rift-quest-htc-steamvr-available">limited</a>.</p> <p><strong>Places you can virtually visit now</strong></p> <p>Nonetheless, there are plenty of VR programs available to help relieve lockdown boredom, with many sites <a href="https://www.digitaltrends.com/virtual-reality/best-virtual-reality-apps/">offering</a> <a href="https://www.lifewire.com/virtual-reality-tourism-4129394">lists</a> of their favourite picks.</p> <p>The Street View app for Google Daydream and Cardboard provides a “virtual tour” of <a href="https://chernobyl-city.com/virtual-tour/">Chernobyl</a>. <a href="https://earth.google.com/web/@-10.50049963,35.75744511,1062.93460117a,116.59974009d,35y,0h,0t,0r/data=CisSKRIgMzczNGFmOTk5MTIzMTFlOTliOTNjYmE2MDYxMWYzYzMiBXNwbC0w">Google Earth</a> and <a href="https://earth.google.com/web/@-10.50049963,35.75744511,1062.93460117a,116.59974009d,35y,0h,0t,0r/data=CgQSAggB">Google Earth Voyager</a> feature travel sections, too.</p> <p><a href="https://arvr.google.com/earth/">Google Earth VR</a> is available on the <a href="http://store.steampowered.com/app/348250/Google_Earth_VR/">HTC Vive</a> and <a href="https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1513995308673845/">Oculus Rift</a>. <a href="https://www.vrfocus.com/tag/tourism/">VRfocus</a> also has an interesting travel section. You can virtually explore <a href="https://grandtour.myswitzerland.com/">Switzerland</a> or <a href="https://www.virtualyosemite.org/">Yosemite</a>.</p> <p>Or you may want to stay in Australia. Australian company <a href="http://whitesparkpictures.com.au/">White Spark Pictures’</a> Cinematic/360 experience of <a href="https://www.dneg.com/antarctica_vr/">Antarctica</a> tours museums. Melbourne-based company <a href="https://www.lithodomosvr.com/">Lithodomos</a> brings “the ancient world to life” and <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=no.hallingdata.hiddenar&amp;hl=en_AU">Hidden AR</a> offers mythical augmented reality.</p> <p>Other links to check out include:</p> <ul> <li>the Guardian’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2020/mar/23/10-of-the-worlds-best-virtual-museum-and-art-gallery-tours">review</a> of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours</li> <li><a href="https://artsandculture.google.com/">Google Arts and Culture’s</a> virtual tours and online exhibits from myriad <a href="https://artsandculture.google.com/partner?hl=en">museums and galleries</a>, as well as scavenger hunts – including at <a href="https://artsandculture.google.com/project/virtual-tours">the British Museum</a></li> <li>the Louvre’s <a href="https://arts.vive.com/us/articles/projects/art-photography/mona_lisa_beyond_the_glass/">Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass</a></li> <li>the <a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/515020/The_VR_Museum_of_Fine_Art/">VR Museum of Fine Art</a>.</li> <li>Europeana’s <a href="https://teachwitheuropeana.eun.org/stories-of-implementation/implementation-of-vintage-vr-soi-hr-109/">vintage stereo VR</a> and <a href="https://pro.europeana.eu/data/vintage-stereoscope-cards">examples</a> of how to create stories and <a href="https://teachwitheuropeana.eun.org/learning-scenarios/vintage-vr-ls-es-14/">lessons</a> with stereosonic VR prints</li> <li>The Smithsonian’s <a href="https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour">virtual tour</a> and downloadable <a href="https://3d.si.edu/">3D artefacts</a>, including a tour of a <a href="https://airandspace.si.edu/vrhangar">hangar</a> from the National Air and Space Museum</li> <li><a href="https://sketchfab.com/museums">Sketchfab</a>’s cultural heritage section which can be accessed through <a href="https://sketchfab.com/virtual-reality">VR headsets or Google Cardboard-enabled smartphones</a>. There’s also a places and travel <a href="https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/categories/places-travel?date=week&amp;sort_by=-likeCount">section</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Escapism through gaming</strong></p> <p>There are also VR games with which you can:</p> <ul> <li>escape inside a physical exhibition of Assassin’s Creed – <a href="https://uploadvr.com/preview-e3-2018-assassins-creed-vr-wireless/">Temple of Anubis VR</a></li> <li>travel through New Orleans, <a href="https://store.playstation.com/en-au/product/EP2397-CUSA18498_00-TWDSSSTDEDITION0">but with zombies</a></li> <li>tour medieval fantasy worlds via <a href="https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B072MZ3NLC?tag=georiot-au-default-22&amp;th=1&amp;psc=1&amp;ascsubtag=trd-3438856826073335000-22">Skyrim VR</a></li> <li>explore alien worlds with <a href="https://www.playstation.com/en-au/games/no-mans-sky-ps4/">No Man’s Sky</a> on PlayStation VR</li> <li>watch Amazonian <a href="https://www.viveport.com/6792ef3d-0775-4ab4-b3d3-3d9c15b64d47">shamans</a>, or</li> <li>explore <a href="https://www.minecraft.net/en-us/vr/">Minecraft</a> in VR.</li> </ul> <p>VR can show your outer space, and also convey interpretations of <a href="https://www.viveport.com/1edac723-2fed-4e56-b509-b0b8e796ba81">time and space</a>. With it, there is vast potential for travelling to infinity and beyond.</p> <p><em>Written by Erik Malcolm Champion. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/antarctica-without-windchill-the-louvre-without-queues-how-to-travel-the-world-from-home-140174">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Don’t count your fish before they hatch: experts react to plans to release 2 million fish into the Murray Darling

<p>The New South Wales government <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/two-million-fish-to-be-released-into-murray-darling-system-20200608-p550gu.html">plans to release</a> two million native fish into rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin, in the largest breeding program of its kind in the state. But as the river system recovers from a string of mass fish deaths, caution is needed.</p> <p>Having suitable <a href="https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aquaculture/publications/species-freshwater/collecting-finfish-broodstock">breeding fish</a> does not always guarantee millions of healthy offspring for restocking. And even if millions of young fish are released into the wild, increased fish populations in the long term are not assured.</p> <p>For stocking to be successful, fish must be released into <a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/Strategies-to-improve-post-release-survival-of-hatchery-reared-threatened-fish-species_0.pdf">good quality water, with suitable habitat and lots of food</a>. But these conditions have been quite rare in Murray Darling rivers over the past three years.</p> <p>We research the impact of human activity on fish and aquatic systems and have studied many Australian fish restocking programs. So let’s take a closer look at the NSW government’s plans.</p> <p><strong>Success stories</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/two-million-fish-to-be-released-into-murray-darling-system-20200608-p550gu.html">According to</a> the Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW restocking program involves releasing juvenile Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch into the Darling River downstream of Brewarrina, in northwestern NSW.</p> <p>Other areas including the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Macquarie and Murray Rivers will reportedly also be restocked. These species and regions were among the hardest hit by recent fish kills.</p> <p>Fish restocking is <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233194500_Stocking_Trends_A_Quantitative_Review_of_Governmental_Fish_Stocking_in_the_United_States_1931_to_2004">used worldwide</a> to boost species after events such as fish kills, help threatened species recover, and increase populations of recreational fishing species.</p> <p>Since the 1970s in the Murray-Darling river system, <a href="https://www.bnbfishing.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Assessment-of-stocking-effectiveness-of-Murray-cod-and-golden-perch.pdf">millions of fish</a> have been bred in <a href="https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/science-and-research/centres/narrandera-fisheries-centre">government</a> and <a href="https://www.murraydarlingfisheries.com.au/">private</a> hatcheries in spring each year. Young fish, called fingerlings, are usually released in the following summer and autumn.</p> <p>There have been success stories. For example, the endangered <a href="https://www.fishfiles.com.au/media/fish-magazine/FISH-Vol-23-2/Back-from-the-brink">trout cod</a> was restocked into the Ovens and Murrumbidgee Rivers between <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235774467_Reintroduction_success_of_threatened_Australian_trout_cod_Maccullochella_macquariensis_based_on_growth_and_reproduction">1997 and 2006</a>. Prior to the restocking program, the species was locally extinct. It’s now re-established in the Murrumbidgee River and no longer requires stocking to maintain the population.</p> <p>In response to fish kills in 2010, the Edward-Wakool river system <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/aec.12424">was restocked</a> to help fish recover when natural spawning was expected to be low. And the threatened Murray hardyhead is now increasing in numbers thanks <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/water/wetlands/publications/wetlands-australia/national-wetlands-update-february-2020/murray-hardyhead#:%7E:text=In%20November%202018%2C%20around%20800,fish%20to%20NSW%20river%20systems.">to a successful stocking program</a> in the Lower Darling.</p> <p>After recent fish kills in the Murray Darling, breeding fish known as “broodstock” were <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/worldtoday/mass-fish-rescue-gets-underway-in-darling-river/11492042">rescued from the river</a> and taken to government and private hatcheries. Eventually, it was expected the rescued fish and their offspring would restock the rivers.</p> <p><strong>Words of caution</strong></p> <p>Fish hatchery managers rarely count their fish before they hatch. It’s quite a challenge to ensure adult fish develop viable eggs that are then fertilised at high rates.</p> <p>Once hatched, larvae must be transported to ponds containing the right amount of plankton for food. The larvae must then avoid predatory birds, be kept free from disease, and grow at the right temperatures.</p> <p>When it comes to releasing the fish into the wild, careful decisions must be made about how many fish to release, where and when. Factors such as water temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen levels must be carefully assessed.</p> <p>Introducing hatchery-reared fish into the wild does <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848610004540?casa_token=NbFwq0hZLSgAAAAA:SntmSZkoWH387KKTDvXn-rHg-I6P0P0Q-OfgI6hvb6gp_Hxy82Y9AMIndcMYR3yarSkeFOY_cWE">not always deliver</a> dramatic improvements in fish numbers. Poor water quality, lack of food and <a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/A-review-of-domestication-effects-on-stocked-fish-in-the-MDB.pdf">slow adaptation to the wild</a> can reduce survival rates.</p> <p>In some parts of the Murray-Darling, restocking <a href="https://researchers.cdu.edu.au/en/publications/contribution-of-stocked-fish-to-riverine-populations-of-golden-pe">is likely to</a> have slowed the decline in native fish numbers, although it has not stopped it altogether.</p> <p><strong>Address the root cause</strong></p> <p>Fish stocking decisions are sometimes motivated by economic reasons, such as boosting species sought by anglers who pay licence fees and support tourist industries. But stocking programs must also consider the underlying reasons for declining fish populations.</p> <p>Aside from poor water quality, fish in the Murray Darling are threatened by being sucked into irrigation systems, cold water pollution from dams, dams and weirs blocking migration paths and invasive fish species. These factors must be addressed alongside restocking.</p> <p>Fish should not be released into areas with unsuitable habitat or water quality. The Darling River fish kills were caused by <a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/managing-water/drought-murray-darling-basin/fish-deaths-lower-darling/independent-assessment-fish">low oxygen levels</a>, associated with drought and water extraction. These conditions could rapidly return if we have another hot, dry summer.</p> <p>Stocking rivers with young fish is only one step. They must then grow to adults and successfully breed. So the restocking program must consider the entire fish life cycle, and be coupled with good <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-08-28/more-fish-kills-expected-as-nsw-government-announces-rescue-plan/11457826">river management</a>.</p> <p>The Murray Darling Basin Authority’s <a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/Native%20Fish%20Emergency%20Response%20Plan%20-%20October%202019_0.pdf">Native Fish Recovery Strategy</a> includes management actions such as improving fish passage, delivering environmental flows, improving habitat, controlling invasive species and fish harvest restrictions. Funding the strategy’s implementation <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-good-plan-to-help-darling-river-fish-recover-exists-so-lets-get-on-with-it-110168">is a key next step</a>.</p> <p><strong>Looking ahead</strong></p> <p>After recent rains, parts of the Murray Darling river system are now flowing for the first time in years. But some locals say the flows are <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-11/lower-darling-flows-hit-pooncarie-first-time-in-18-months/12137306">only a trickle</a> and more rain is urgently needed.</p> <p><a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/outlooks/#/rainfall/median/weekly/0">Higher than average rainfall</a> is predicted between July and September. This will be needed for restocked fish to thrive. If the rain does not arrive, and other measures are not taken to improve the system’s health, then the restocking plans may be futile.</p> <p><em>Written by Lee Baumgartner, Jamin Forbes and Katie Doyle. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/dont-count-your-fish-before-they-hatch-experts-react-to-plans-to-release-2-million-fish-into-the-murray-darling-140428">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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120 million years ago: Giant crocodiles walked on two legs

<p>Fossilised footprints and tracks provide a direct record of how ancient animals moved. And some preserved behaviours leave us marvelling in disbelief.</p> <p>In research published today in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66008-7">Scientific Reports</a>, my international team of colleagues and I detail our discovery of exquisitely preserved crocodile footprints, formed about 120 million years ago in what is now Sacheon, South Korea.</p> <p>These trace fossils reveal multiple crocodiles undertaking a very curious behaviour: bipedal walking, much like many dinosaurs.</p> <p>The ancient footprints uncovered resemble those made by humans, as they are long and slender, with a prominent heel impression. But they have additional features, including thick scaly imprints from the sole and toes that are comparatively long with broader impressions.</p> <p>The shape of these footprints compares very well with crocodile tracks known elsewhere, notably <em>Batrachopus</em> tracks from the Jurassic <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10420940490428832">found in the United States</a> – with “<em>Batrachopus</em>” being the name assigned to the tracks themselves.</p> <p>However, instead of being made by quadrupedal, cat-sized crocodiles, the Sacheon fossil tracks are large. With footprints that measure around 24 centimetres long, they come from animals with legs the same height as human legs and bodies more than three metres long.</p> <p><strong>A distant ancestor</strong></p> <p>Today, crocodiles walk on four legs in a wide, squat stance. The Sacheon crocodile trackways we discovered indicate a different pattern of movement. They do not have “handprints”, and the trackways are exceptionally narrow, as if the animals were making the footprints while balancing on a tightrope.</p> <p>This suggests these ancient crocodiles had their legs tucked beneath their body, much like a dinosaur, rather than assuming the typical sprawling posture seen in today’s crocodiles.</p> <p>The tracks could not have been made by dinosaurs. One clear difference between dinosaur and crocodile tracks is that crocodiles walk flat-footed, leaving a clear heel impression. Dinosaurs and their bird descendants walk high on their toes, with the heel off the ground.</p> <p><strong>The devil is in the detail</strong></p> <p>Fossil tracks can be found in many different states of preservation, ranging from excellent to comparatively indistinct. This can make it hard to accurately identify the animals that made them.</p> <p>Often, track sites are either not composed of sediments that help retain the finer features of tracks, or they erode after lengthy exposure to the elements.</p> <p>We know the Sacheon trackmakers were ancient crocodiles because the tracks have been preserved in extraordinary detail.</p> <p>This is due in part to fine, muddy sediment around an ancient lake that was able to hold the footprints while covered by sediment-laden water. Also, the site was freshly excavated for a new rural building development and hadn’t been exposed to erosion.</p> <p><strong>A helpful reference point</strong></p> <p>The perfectly preserved Sacheon tracks became our reference to reassess other unusual trackways that had been described in the area, but were more poorly preserved.</p> <p>Our attention focused on sites at Gain-ri and Adu Island just ten kilometres away from Sacheon, that had eroded trackways within the <a href="https://www.crd.bc.ca/education/our-environment/ecosystems/coastal-marine/intertidal-zone#:%7E:text=The%20intertidal%20zone%20is%20the,high%20and%20low%20tide%20lines.">intertidal zone</a>, between the low and high tide. These narrow trackways with long, slender footprints but no hand prints or tail drag marks echoed the Sacheon crocodile tracks.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10420940.2011.625779">decade earlier</a>, the footprints had been interpreted as made by another ancient animal known as a <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/11/pterosaurs-weirdest-wonders-on-wings/">pterosaur</a>. This ancient winged creature – related to dinosaurs but not officially classified as one – was famed for ruling the skies when dinosaurs ruled the land.</p> <p>Crocodiles and pterosaurs were quite distinct, being predominantly land and air dwellers, respectively. They had very differently shaped hands, but interestingly, the impressions they left with their feet can look very similar.</p> <p>When pterosaurs were on the ground, they typically walked on all fours, using their back feet and hands to support themselves as they moved, just like today’s crocodiles.</p> <p>However, as the “pterosaur” Gain-ri and Adu Island trackways lacked hand prints, they indicate bipedal walking. Thus, the tracks were wrongly ascribed to a pterosaur.</p> <p>When first discovered, pterosaur tracks were known to be very common in South Korea, while crocodile tracks were rare. In the absence of well-preserved footprints, the preferred interpretation was that these tracks were likely evidence of unusual behaviour of the pterosaur, a common trackmaker in the area.</p> <p>With the new evidence from the Sacheon site, it became possible to reevaluate the Gain-ri and Adu Island trackways too, which we now suspect were made by the same crocodile trackmakers strolling around Sacheon 120 million years ago.</p> <p><em>Written by Anthony Romilio. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/120-million-years-ago-giant-crocodiles-walked-on-two-legs-in-what-is-now-south-korea-140335">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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“I love Australia”: 3 things international students want Australians to know

<p>A recent statement from China’s education bureau <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-09/china-warns-students-not-to-return-to-australia-after-coronaviru/12337044">warned Chinese students</a> about studying in Australia due to “racist incidents” during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>Such statements, and further moves from China’s education agents threatening to redirect students towards international competitors such as the United Kingdom, can negatively affect Australia as a study destination. Australia’s universities are <a href="https://theconversation.com/covid-19-what-australian-universities-can-do-to-recover-from-the-loss-of-international-student-fees-139759">already reeling</a> from the loss of international students due to COVID-19.</p> <p>There have been reports some <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-10/chinese-international-students-defend-australia/12340820">international students from China</a> have defended Australia as a study destination. I have been conducting in-depth interviews with ten international students in Australia about their experiences and concerns throughout COVID-19.</p> <p>They too have, mostly, positive things to say.</p> <p>Here are three things they believe Australia should know as we plan our recovery.</p> <p><strong>1. Australians must be more welcoming</strong></p> <p>Negative experiences of international students are more dangerous to long-term recovery than border closures and flight restrictions. At a time of <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0">increased unemployment</a> and <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/smp/2020/may/economic-outlook.html#:%7E:text=The%20Australian%20economy%20is%20expected,cent%20in%20the%20June%20quarter.">pessimistic economic forecasts</a>, we risk anti-foreigner sentiment growing.</p> <p>Students I spoke with reported this was already happening. One student from Peru said he had “had quite racist comments like ‘go back to your country’”. Another, from India, spoke at length about part-time jobs now being “offered only to Australian citizens. I was told not to even bring in a CV”.</p> <p>On April 4, the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-03/coronavirus-pm-tells-international-students-time-to-go-to-home/12119568">prime minister</a> called for temporary visa holders to “go home” if they couldn’t support themselves.</p> <p>Each student I spoke with said this was the point in time when they went from feeling a part of their community, to feeling unwelcome.</p> <p>One Indian student told me:</p> <p><em>I have seen a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment and anti-Asian sentiment. I have seen my Japanese flatmate have abuse yelled at her on the street. Calling her a “filthy Asian” and things like this.</em></p> <p>Another student spoke about Labor Senator <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/do-we-want-migrants-to-return-in-the-same-numbers-the-answer-is-no-20200501-p54p2q.html">Kristina Kenneally’s call</a> to “reset” Australia’s temporary migration intake and give Australians a “fair go”.</p> <p>She said: “<em>Definitely, there is a growing anti-immigrant sentiment here. The talk from people in the Australian government that we should be “getting our jobs back for Australians” is constructed in a way to inherently disadvantage people like me, or immigrants. Because it is government policy it will infiltrate across the country and it’s hard to tackle that on an individual level.”</em></p> <p>Each student suggested Australia’s reputation as a welcoming, safe and diverse place was what was going to shape how parents and prospective students made decisions about where to study after the crisis.</p> <p><strong>2. International students are integrated in Australian society</strong></p> <p>The students I spoke with are looking to integrate in local communities as a central part of their overseas experience. They felt they contributed to various parts of Australian society – as tourists and volunteers.</p> <p>And many played an active role in promoting Australia and their city internationally.</p> <p>Daniel, from Peru, is based at a regional Queensland university. He volunteers with a local men’s mental health organisation. He’s taken over the weekly Spanish language program on the local radio station and, until the shutdown, worked part time at a bar and volunteered with a research program measuring local water quality.</p> <p>He said: “<em>Something I have learned here is about a sense of community, about being kind to others. I love Australia and the people I have met so far. Once all this is over, I will go back to my home country and teach them about what I have learned here.”</em></p> <p><strong>3. The government needs to signal its support through clear policy</strong></p> <p>International students want clear policy responses and acknowledgement of the valuable role they play in Australia.</p> <p>Australia’s flattened curve undoubtably works in our favour, giving us an advantage over the United States and the UK.</p> <p>However, the government’s support and welfare may shape how parents and prospective students make future decisions.</p> <p>Clear policy responses matter now. They offer a signal to students – current and future – that Australia recognises the importance of international students, and they are a welcome and supported part of our communities.</p> <p>An example is Australia’s <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/obscure-rules-and-stalled-visas-jeopardise-australian-recovery">reluctance to guarantee</a> international students will not be penalised from being eligible for a Temporary Graduate Visa if studying online. This visa allows graduates of Australian universities to stay on and work, and is essential to attracting students. Currently students are restricted around the amount of offshore study they can do to be eligible.</p> <p>Canada made <a href="https://www.cicnews.com/2020/04/how-canada-is-helping-international-students-0414222.html">such an adjustment</a> early on, announcing international students could complete 50% of their study online without it impacting their eligibility to eventually apply for a post-study work permit.</p> <p>One Indian student told me:</p> <p><em>I don’t think Indian students will be deterred from their goal to study abroad and to better their lives. But a lot of where they decide to do this depends on how the government reacts and responds. A lot of students are probably going to start looking at Europe and Canada as a better destination because of the policies they have. Canada has been doing a really great job at protecting its international student community.</em></p> <p>International students value human connection and their expectations and contributions extend beyond the lecture hall. They are looking for responses and a recovery strategy that acknowledges this.</p> <p><em>Written by Angela Lehmann. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/i-love-australia-3-things-international-students-want-australians-to-know-139857">The Conversation. </a></em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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