Experts probe possible link between vaccine and woman's death; Federal Court rules Google misled customers on location data; PM flags future of international travel; Royals prepare for Prince Philip's funeral

By Tom Livingstone16 Apr 2021 07:02Scott Morrison thanked the Australian Defence Force personnel who are in Kalbarri and surrounding areas, helping with the recovery effort after Cyclone Seroja swept through on the weekend.He also commended the local SES who helped ensure some 7000 locals were safely evacuated prior to the storm hitting.”Some 7000 or so weren’t there. People who were in this town before that cyclone hit and the commander of the local SES made sure that people got out. That clearly saved lives,” Mr Morrison said.”That quick thinking, that experience that was needed in that moment, the work that was done as a community to get people to safety was extraordinaryand we are now in the position where the injuries here are minor, substantially, and there has certainly been no loss of life and that is, indeed, a miracle, given what we’ve seen happen as a result of this terrible cyclone.”

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Natural Selection Tour Winners Mikkel Bang And Robin Van Gyn Talk Winning Runs, Snowboarding’s Future

The inaugural Natural Selection Tour, the snowboarding competition brainchild of snowboarders Travis Rice and Liam Griffin, officially wrapped this week with the third of the tour’s three stops in the books. And with that, snowboarding’s male and female champions have been crowned.

Norway’s Mikkel Bang and Canada’s Robin Van Gyn emerged victorious in the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively, both of which went down at Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountain Lodge a couple weeks ago, with the finale airing Friday at 3 p.m. EDT. It can be replayed in its entirety on Red Bull TV, along with the first stop at Jackson Hole in February and the second stop at Baldface Valhalla in British Columbia in March.

On the men’s side, the United States’ Ben Ferguson and Canada’s Mark McMorris came in second and third, respectively, and on the women’s side New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott was the runner-up to Gyn.

After getting his start in the contest scene in slopestyle, winning the 2010 Burton U.S. Open, Bang, 31, shifted his focus to filming and riding powder. The Natural Selection Tour marked his first competition in eight years.

“Just being invited to this contest was an honor, and ending up in first place is just unreal,” Bang said. In Jackson Hole, Bang also stomped what has become one of the most-watched highlights from the entire Tour: a stylish frontside 360 rock tap.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined myself here,” said Van Gyn, 38, a prolific filmer and backcountry veteran who doesn’t have much competition experience under her belt.

“I was really excited to try to compete in a backcountry arena, knowing I had experience there, but not really in competition. Like every athlete, we keep challenging ourselves and this was part of that personal evolution for me: learning to film, learning to do tricks in the backcountry, learning to ride in Alaska. I had been building on that for a long time.”

The third and final Tordrillo Mountain Lodge stop was a two-day event featuring four men and three women competing in a head-to-head format. Each rider took three total runs, and the highest-scored run won the heat. In real time, judges evaluated the difficulty of a rider’s chosen line, the size of the features they hit and the variety and execution of tricks in the line.

Van Gyn, who is from the Vancouver area and works as a backcountry tail guide outside Baldface Nelson, won the second event on her home turf at Baldface Valhalla, impressing the judges with her straight airs off cliffs and a frontside 360 in her second run.

In Alaska, Van Gyn upped the ante yet again in the final against Sadowski-Synnott. Using her first run to find the good snow and feel out where the best hits were going to be, she looked to ride her line with confidence and flow in her second run.

“I ended up doing more of a safety run at the top,” Van Gyn said of her second (and winning) run, which she opened with a half-Cab cornice drop in.

“I pulled the backflip I was doing in my run out and just started fresh. I hit I think four airs, and at the very end I did a bigger cliff I was hoping to do in my final, which I did in my safety run, which makes it not that safe at all,” she said, laughing. “That’s the run I ended up winning with.”

Bang beat out Mark McMorris in the semifinals and went up against Ben Ferguson in the final.

The judges were impressed by both the technical and the stylish nature of Bang’s riding, as well as his fearlessness in taking risks. He anchored his boned out frontside 360 and backside 540 off a blind takeoff with precise landings and smooth transitions.

“My dream growing up watching snowboarding was to film video parts and ride big mountain and powder, so I competed in the first part of my career to be able to do so,” Bang said.

“And then it came to a point where I transitioned to and dedicated all my time for filming, and I think both having competed and having spent so much time in the backcountry really helped me for this event.”

The Natural Selection Tour is not Rice’s first foray into backcountry competition, but it is arguably already his most successful, with a new sensibility.

The idea is that the Tour is a perfect combination of big-mountain riding and park riding, forcing riders to be skilled not only at executing those spins and flips off natural and man-made features, but also in reading the snow, selecting their lines and managing their landings in heavy powder.

When he announced the Natural Selection Tour, Rice said the event would crown the world’s best all-around snowboarders, given the myriad skills required to succeed.

“The beauty of this event is riders will inevitably face a multitude of riding conditions where a lifetime of skill sets and experience is the basis for one’s decision on when to go for it and when to play it safe,” Rice said.

While the competitors came from every type of snowboarding background—halfpipe and slopestyle, filming, and urban and backcountry riding—Bang’s and Van Gyn’s skill and experience in the backcountry ultimately helped them claim the throne.

“It takes years to learn how to read the mountain and pick lines and be creative. It has taken all my life to figure it out,” Bang said.

“Robin and Mikkel both proved today that there is indisputable reason they both were crowned champions of the Natural Selection Tour,” Rice said. “Battling it out against the world’s best with over 14 head-to-head competition runs throughout the season and they came out victorious on the runs that mattered the most.”

So do Bang and Van Gyn accept the titles of world’s best all-around snowboarders, then? 

“It is pretty cool how this event brings together so many different riders; you have people with halfpipe backgrounds, slopestyle, freestyle world tour background, filming background, and we all get matched into this event,” Bang said. “I mean, I’ll take it for now,” he added with a laugh.

Back home in Norway now, Bang is quarantining after his travels and beginning to think about planning his annual Bang Slalom event, which was canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. He founded the event, which is open to everyone, “ just to give something back to the snowboard community.” He hopes to have the chance to defend his title at next year’s Natural Selection Tour.

So does Van Gyn—and she knows the competition will be fierce.

“In action sports and snowboarding we tend to be incredibly humble to the point it takes away from our achievements, and I want to sit somewhere in the middle where I still get to own my value and accomplishments but still realize there are so many good snowboarders out there,” Van Gyn said. “I may have had my day this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best snowboarder on the planet, and next year I’m gonna have to work extra hard.”

Both Bang and Van Gyn applauded Rice’s vision for the event and expressed excitement about what it means for the future of snowboarding.

The prize purse is equal for men and women, which, coupled with the exposure, can help progress the sport overall but especially for women. And it’s a venue for snowboarders who don’t want to go the traditional contest route (slopestyle, halfpipe, big air) to show off their skills, earn some new sponsors and make some money to boot.

The Tour attracted big-name sponsors and partners, including Quiksilver, BOA, Union Binding Company, Mervin Manufacturing, Oakley, VANS, Salomon, K2, The North Face, Jones Snowboards, Picture Organic Clothing, Salomon and Spot Insurance. Van Gyn’s own sister, Jill, founded a healthy peanut butter brand called Fatso Peanut Butter, which fueled Robin’s performance during the Tour.

YETI entitled the Jackson Hole event and leads the Tour’s sustainability strategy alongside Conservation International. Ford Bronco entitled the Baldface Valhalla stop, and HempFusion entitled the final at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge.

“I know Travis shares a really deep desire to have equity and equality for women and men in snowboarding. Women aren’t snowboarding for men to watch and judge us; we’re snowboarding for other women to be inspired and go their own route,” Van Gyn said. “Having wins in this event—if you weren’t already known, people are gonna know, which is amazing, and it can increase your ability to have partnerships.”

“I got to give Travis a shoutout for having the vision. I know he’s been wanting to do this for years, and he pulled it off—during Covid, which is amazing,” Bang said. “It’s so nice to show this side of snowboarding versus what people are used to seeing, and then also women being equal, same prize money…it’s a really good look for the sport.”

Ultimately, Rice’s dream was to gather the world’s top snowboarders to showcase the most advanced and creative riding on the planet. The overwhelming consensus is that in its first year, the Tour did that.

“The application of freestyle and creativity on the canvas of natural terrain provides some of the most dynamic snowboarding we will see,” Rice said. “This is why the Natural Selection Tour, with mother nature as the main character, has no ceiling. This is only the beginning.”

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Innovative start-ups share “future makers” grant

Five start-ups from across Australia have been selected to receive a share of the $200,000 Optus Future Makers Grant to help bring their innovative business ideas to life.

The five finalists were chosen from among the many that have submitted their respective pitches and presented to an expert panel of Optus executives that included Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, CEO, Richard Webby, MD Digital, Kate Aitken, VP HR, Andrew Buay, VP Group Sustainability and Helen Maisano, Director Optus Group Sustainability. Clive Dickens, VP TV, Content and Product Development was also involved in selecting the start-ups and presenting during the program.

Nitin Fernandez, Co-founder of the care and rehabilitation start-up Maslow received the top grant of $75,000 as well as winning the $10,000 People’s Choice Award which will go towards delivering a voice-enabled rehabilitation assistant for young people living with paralysis.

The other grant recipients are:

  • Narelle Priestley of AIBLE, a job search app that uses artificial intelligence to match abilities, personality types, experience, skills and certifications with job requirements.
  • Frances Atkins of givvable, a data-driven platform that helps companies find, source and track the impact of sustainable and social spending.
  • Bronwyn Covill of Need a Tutor, which helps address the problem of education for people living in rural and geographically isolated areas.
  • Clive Vaz of PeepsRide, which provides transport service to care organisations for the elderly and those with disabilities to get outdoors more often.

“We are incredibly proud of our Optus Future Makers program and our alumni of purpose-driven innovators,” Helen Maisano, Optus’ Director for Group Sustainability, said. “Now in its fourth year, it enables valuable opportunities to support innovation and purpose-driven social entrepreneurs to ensure they can make a positive social impact with the use of technology.

“Accessing technologies and bridging digital divides is core to driving what we do at Optus; improving the lives of those across the country, especially those disadvantaged and vulnerable,” Maisano added. “We look forward to experiencing the future innovations as part of this program, as its incredible to not only have the chance to mentor but take key learnings from these outstanding talents.”

Clive Dickens, Optus’ Vice President of Television, Content and Product Development said that the panel of experts were once again inspired by the range of meaningful and purpose-driven innovations the winners presented.

“Collaboration between established organisations and start-ups is critical to harnessing technology innovation in Australia,” Dickens said. “I can speak on behalf of the entire team on the panel that it has been a privilege to be a part of this program and drive technology innovation for social good.”

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Q&A: Health management app the platform for a healthier future

This week we chat with Maree Beare, founder and CEO of Wanngi, a health
management platform on which people can track and manage their symptoms, injuries,
medications, allergies, immunisations and fitness progress.

ISB: Why did you give up the “safety net” of a salaried
position to launch your own start-up?

MB: As a technologist I had a burning desire to use my skills to
advocate for consumers in accessing their health information. When someone
tells me “you can’t do it” (which happened a lot), it makes me want
to do it even more. I spent a decade delivering innovation projects for large
corporations and government agencies, and whilst they paid the bills, I
constantly felt there was something lacking and that I was born to do more. When
the idea of solving problems for social change came to me, I knew that was my
calling and I went for it.

ISB: And what was the inspiration behind tackling the healthtech sector
for this start-up venture?

MB: There is a lot of noise in the healthtech sector. And whilst the
healthcare system tries to be patient-centric, there is little advocacy for
consumers. I wanted to create one platform that made people with chronic health
issues feel safe and heard. When it comes to a patient’s entire medical
history, it can be stressful to remember everything, and for doctors to gather
everything they need to know. I created Wanngi as a central place for people to
track all their symptoms, health records, medication and treatment plans, so
they can improve their diagnosis and have more effective conversations with
their doctors.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise
off the ground?

MB: It’s disappointing that this is still something we have to address
in 2021, but being an ambitious woman in a male-dominated tech industry has
definitely been an ongoing challenge. As women, finding investment funding is
quite daunting. Due to a lack of knowledge about the healthtech sector amongst
Australian investors, scaling a company like Wanngi is hard locally. Adding the
fact that I’m a female certainly doesn’t help the situation. Crunchbase data highlights
this problem – female founders globally received only 2.3 per cent of the
funding available in 2020, a decrease from 2.8 per cent in 2019. It’s

frustrating that more often than not, when women entrepreneurs pitch to
investors (mostly men) questions focus on the risks rather than the
opportunities. It’s a shame because the healthtech sector is certainly a growth

ISB: Bearing in mind that there are other health management apps out
there, how do you ensure yours stands out from the crowd?

MB: We are in a world that is more connected than
ever before, with healthcare that is not connected. Consumers want to cut
through the noise for an authentic customer-first experience. Not only does Wanngi
help people track their health in one place, it also allows them to export
their entire medical history and share it with multiple doctors. As telehealth
has skyrocketed, an app like Wanngi is so relevant. It also lets users record
all immunisations – including COVID-19 vaccines – and store test results so medical
professionals have access to them as and when required.

ISB:What is your vision for the
development of the business in the next couple of years?

MB: We’re scaling our health management platforms
to provide a direct-to-consumer approach to provide efficiencies in the $47 billion
clinical trials market. Our mission is for Australia to become the hotspot for
conducting clinical trials globally, which will be achieved by enabling a fast
and efficient recruitment process for consumers to participate in clinical
trials. Pharma companies globally have been unable to conduct many clinical
trials in countries impacted by COVID. We are in a country where COVID is under
control, and yet people with chronic illness who are seeking help for their
illness are currently finding blocked pathways when searching for appropriate
clinical trials.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one piece of advice you’d give to
women who aspire to launch their own start-up?

MB: Go for it. As women, only we know our struggle. We’ve all been there.
Surprisingly, sometimes it’s women who dissuade other women from following
their dreams, which is why it’s so important for us to be true to ourselves,
stay determined and – last but definitely not the least – girls in this
industry need to support each other.

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Australian deep-sea reef study could uncover new species

CANBERRA, April 12 (Xinhua) — Australian researchers have embarked on an expedition to explore previously undocumented deep-sea coral reefs off the country’s north coast.

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) researchers departed Darwin on Friday bound for the Ashmore Reef Marine Park for a three-week expedition.

The “unknown and undocumented” mesophotic coral ecosystem will be explored with researchers hopeful their findings will help protect reefs around the world.

Karen Miller, the chief scientist on the voyage from the AIMS, said that equipment on board the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s RV Falkor made studying the reef possible, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Sunday.

“It’s not quite light and it’s not quite dark, so it’s like twilight. Because it’s got a very different light regime to other areas of the ocean. What we expect to see is quite a different suite of species that are specialized,” she said.

“It is very difficult to do this work and you don’t get very many opportunities,” she said. “We’re excited to be able to study that unknown area and to see what species are living there that we don’t necessarily know even exist yet. It’s that technology that enables us to be able to go down and study these reefs in detail.”

The biodiversity samples collected on the voyage will be coordinated by the Western Australia Museum.

Nerida Wilson from the museum said the findings could hold the key to conserving reefs amid global warming.

“If conditions change, with climate, then the kind of environmental conditions that shallow reefs need now are going to be in those deeper areas in the future,” she said.

“We’ll understand if they are providing a refuge for the shallow water animals, so we will also know to follow what happens to the animals that are currently only known in mesophotic areas.

“It’s quite complex to try and figure out what happens in the future, and the more we understand now the easier our job will be then.”

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Rewriting evolutionary history and shape future health studies — ScienceDaily

The network of nerves connecting our eyes to our brains is sophisticated and researchers have now shown that it evolved much earlier than previously thought, thanks to an unexpected source: the gar fish.

Michigan State University’s Ingo Braasch has helped an international research team show that this connection scheme was already present in ancient fish at least 450 million years ago. That makes it about 100 million years older than previously believed.

“It’s the first time for me that one of our publications literally changes the textbook that I am teaching with,” said Braasch, as assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology in the College of Natural Science.

This work, published in the journal Science on April 8, also means that this type of eye-brain connection predates animals living on land. The existing theory had been that this connection first evolved in terrestrial creatures and, from there, carried on into humans where scientists believe it helps with our depth perception and 3D vision.

And this work, which was led by researchers at France’s Inserm public research organization, does more than reshape our understanding of the past. It also has implications for future health research.

Studying animal models is an invaluable way for researchers to learn about health and disease, but drawing connections to human conditions from these models can be challenging.

Zebrafish are a popular model animal, for example, but their eye-brain wiring is very distinct from a human’s. In fact, that helps explain why scientists thought the human connection first evolved in four-limbed terrestrial creatures, or tetrapods.

“Modern fish, they don’t have this type of eye-brain connection,” Braasch said. “That’s one of the reasons that people thought it was a new thing in tetrapods.”

Braasch is one of the world’s leading experts in a different type of fish known as gar. Gar have evolved more slowly than zebrafish, meaning gar are more similar to the last common ancestor shared by fish and humans. These similarities could make gar a powerful animal model for health studies, which is why Braasch and his team are working to better understand gar biology and genetics.

That, in turn, is why Inserm’s researchers sought out Braasch for this study.

“Without his help, this project wouldn’t have been possible,” said Alain Chédotal, director of research at Inserm and a group leader of the Vision Institute in Paris. “We did not have access to spotted gar, a fish that does not exist in Europe and occupies a key position in the tree of life.”

To do the study, Chédotal and his colleague, Filippo Del Bene, used a groundbreaking technique to see the nerves connecting eyes to brains in several different fish species. This included the well-studied zebrafish, but also rarer specimens such as Braasch’s gar and Australian lungfish provided by a collaborator at the University of Queensland.

In a zebrafish, each eye has one nerve connecting it to the opposite side of the fish’s brain. That is, one nerve connects the left eye to the brain’s right hemisphere and another nerve connects its right eye to the left side of its brain.

The other, more “ancient” fish do things differently. They have what’s called ipsilateral or bilateral visual projections. Here, each eye has two nerve connections, one going to either side of the brain, which is also what humans have.

Armed with an understanding of genetics and evolution, the team could look back in time to estimate when these bilateral projections first appeared. Looking forward, the team is excited to build on this work to better understand and explore the biology of visual systems.

“What we found in this study was just the tip of the iceberg,” Chédotal said. “It was highly motivating to see Ingo’s enthusiastic reaction and warm support when we presented him the first results. We can’t wait to continue the project with him.”

Both Braasch and Chédotal noted how powerful this study was thanks to a robust collaboration that allowed the team to examine so many different animals, which Braasch said is a growing trend in the field.

The study also reminded Braasch of another trend.

“We’re finding more and more that many things that we thought evolved relatively late are actually very old,” Braasch said, which actually makes him feel a little more connected to nature. “I learn something about myself when looking at these weird fish and understanding how old parts of our own bodies are. I’m excited to tell the story of eye evolution with a new twist this semester in our Comparative Anatomy class.”

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Bushfire on Figure of Eight Island raises questions about Indigenous history, future management

Only a handful of people ever knew that Figure of Eight Island was on fire.

During the horror Australian summer of 2019–20, the nation’s eyes were fixed on the east coast’s bushfires when a lightning strike hit the small, uninhabited island off the coast of Esperance in Western Australia.

It triggered a blaze that burned for a couple of days before fizzling out.

But the full scope of its impact is just now being measured.

Last month, more than a year after the fire, a team of researchers and rangers travelled to the island to be met by only a lone baby bird.

The chick was a short-tailed shearwater, also known as a Tasmanian mutton bird, and its presence confirmed what marine biologist Jennifer Lavers long-suspected: that Figure of Eight Island may have once been home to the nation’s western-most population of the species.

Jennifer Lavers may have found Australia’s western-most population of short-tailed shearwaters.(

ABC News


But for now at least, it appears that home has been destroyed.

“We had heard that at least part of the island had experienced a bushfire,” Dr Lavers said.

“[But] almost immediately after we arrived we could see that almost the entire island had been encompassed in the fire.

“The burrows that the seabirds would normally live in have been completely washed away and it is essentially just a barren habitat.”

Only one baby bird found

Figure of Eight Island is off the south-west coast of Esperance, at the western point of the Recherche Archipelago, a group of more than 100 islands.

They are wild and unforgiving and over the years have become known for extraordinary stories: a murderous pirate, marooned prisoners, fearless surfers and sharks.

Figure of Eight Island is located approximately 30km south-west of Esperance.(

Supplied: Google Maps


But Dr Laver’s interest in Figure of Eight lay in old records from the 1950s, that indicated the island might be home to a short-tailed shearwater colony.

That would be significant, given the next closest colony was believed to be on Wickam Island, 200 kilometres away on the far-eastern side of the archipelago.

After years of visiting the Esperance region, conditions were finally good enough for Dr Lavers and a team of rangers to make the treacherous ocean crossing last month.

Charred island scrubland
Fire has decimated shearwater habitat on Figure of Eight Island.(

Supplied: David Guilfoyle


But the island was eerily quiet when they arrived.

At this time of year, Dr Lavers said the island should have been alive with the seabird colony in the middle of its breeding season.

But the only trace she could find among the many abandoned burrows was the one baby chick — a meagre offering but enough to confirm the species’ presence.

Yet questions about the rest of the colony linger, and, given the suspected decline of the species’ globally, those answers may have broad implications.

Dr Lavers said it would definitely be the subject of future research.

Understanding an ancient story

The missing shearwater colony was not the only mystery created by the fire.

During the research trip, traditional owner Doc Reynolds said rangers and in-house archaeologists discovered stone tools on the island, which he said was probable evidence of Aboriginal occupation.

Two people walk across the island, the ocean is visible in the distance
Rangers map the location of shearwater burrows on Figure of Eight Island.(

Supplied: David Guilfoyle


Mr Reynolds said this made sense as the islands had been connected to the mainland before sea levels rose thousands of years ago, and cultural sites had already been discovered on other islands in and around the archipelago.

He said after consulting with local elders, the rangers would likely return to the island and carry out an excavation to try and find material that could be dated to give a likely timeframe of when people last lived there.

Sand dune’s age determined

The discovery tied in well with another project that rangers from the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (ETNTAC) had been working on, which dated the age of sand dunes east of Esperance.

Using a PVC pipe, they collected sand from about a metre below the surface of a dune at Wharton Beach.

The trio stand on the island, with the ocean behind them
Rangers and Dr Lavers look for short-tailed shearwaters.(

Supplied: David Guilfoyle


After sending it away from analysis, they discovered the sand had not seen sunlight for about 4,700 years, which meant the sand dune was at least that old.

David Guilfoyle, the healthy country plan coordinator for ETNTAC, said the studies could give insights about how people coped with sea level rise and climate change, which could provide today’s society with valuable lessons.

“It’s an epic journey that people have been on for thousands of years.

“And we’re just getting glimpses of it from this type of work.”

Mr Guilfoyle said the island’s Indigenous ancestors had a “deep understanding” of the land.

“We see the immense value of integrating cultural knowledge systems into research and planning,” he said.

“They’ve experienced climate change, been through it, they knew how systems function — the seasons, plant life, the animal life — so we’re tapping into that now.”

Rangers work on the dune, the ocean is seen in the background
A sand dune near Esperance was found to be about 4,700 years old.(

Supplied: David Guilfoyle


‘Pristine’ islands require protection

Mr Guilfoyle said the stories recently exposed at Figure of Eight Island showed that even though the Recherche Archipelago was pristine and relatively unchartered, it needed management and care to remain that way.

Mr Guilfoyle said work needed to be done to reduce the island’s fuel loads, manage invasive weeds, monitor significant wildlife and protect cultural sites.

A weed shoot in the sand
Invasive weeds are colonising the charred island.(

Supplied: David Guilfoyle


Currently, the islands are managed by the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

The department says that Figure of Eight Island will recover on its own.

“Results from previous survey work indicate the islands recover naturally after bushfires,” a spokesperson said.

“As with previous bushfire recovery, bird populations are known to return to the islands within a few years to reoccupy burrows.”

A decade of recovery

Mr Guilfoyle believed the best way forward for the Recherche Archipelago was a collaborative approach where the ETNTAC rangers pooled funding and resources with DBCA and universities.

Mr Reynolds said continued support from the state and federal government was critical to continue cultural mapping.

He wants to see the local rangers at the forefront of researching and protecting the archipelago into the future.

Dr Lavers said the community could help by providing photos or drone footage of Figure of Eight Island before or after the fire.

But she warned that if anyone was to visit the island they should not venture off the beach as it could destroy the shearwaters’ nesting habitat.

“But it will really be the rangers and community telling me just how right I am in making that prediction.”

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Cyclones to bring more rain further south in future, say the weather experts

As a pack of tropical lows looms off the WA coast, the latest forecast is for the biggest, Tropical Cyclone Seroja, to continue south-west and turn towards the coast on Saturday.

According to Andrew Burton, manager of tropical cyclones at the Bureau of Meteorology, the system is likely to impact as a category two as early as Sunday afternoon, but more likely overnight Sunday into Monday.

Cyclones are notoriously prone to change so please keep up to date with the warnings over the weekend.

“The important thing for some will be that this system will also take a period of severe weather, right through the Wheatbelt and down towards the Southern Goldfields,” Mr Burton warned.

It might feel like there is a lot going on at the moment but according to Mr Burton cyclones often hunt in packs.


“Often you have a period where there’s nothing around and then you have two or three tropical lows and that’s exactly what we have at the moment, three tropical lows.”

But it’s quite rare to see three so close together.

“It’s very rare to see two of them interacting as closely as we have Seroja and another tropical low interacting at the moment,” he said.


However this particular atmospheric quirk can’t be attributed to climate change, according to Mr Burton.

“We couldn’t say that climate change was involved in creating this scenario,” he said.

“Climate change is actually expected to lead to fewer cyclones overall but we won’t see any less of the ones that really matter, the really severe cyclones,” according to Mr Burton.

Despite current events, the number of tropical cyclones has been going down over the past few decades.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the impacts from tropical cyclones will be less in the future. When it comes to climate change and cyclones it’s complicated.

Cyclone intensity forecast to increase … a little

Tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes and typhoons — all the same meteorological phenomena — feed off the energy of the ocean.

According to Michael Montgomery, professor of meteorology at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, as the heat content in the ocean goes up the amount of energy available to tropical cyclones increases.

Map of oceans around Australia showing red to the south east where oceans have warmed at over 0.16 degrees per decade
This map shows how the ocean surface around Australia has warmed, with more rapid warming in oceans to the south east.(

Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology


“Physical reasoning suggests the intensity is going to go up a little bit,” Dr Montgomery said.

“But will it go up dramatically? The answer is no.”

The top end intensity of storms is only expected to increase a little in terms of wind speeds but the proportion of severe storms is expected to go up.

Whether or not this is happening already is up for debate.

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What does it take to make a cyclone?(ABC Weather)

“I think the emerging consensus among many of the leading experts in the US and Australia is that right now we’re not able to compellingly disentangle or separate the natural variability in the number of intense storms from the human-induced climate change signal,” Dr Montgomery said.

But they are more confident about the future.

“There are still uncertainties in these model predictions, but I don’t think there’s a lot of debate as to whether or not the intensity of storms will go up a little bit. I think that’s pretty clear,” he said.

Sea level and rainfall intensity set to increase

The current category system for tropical cyclones is based upon wind speed but that is not the only hazard with a cyclone.

Cindy Bruyere, director of the Capabilities Centre for Weather and Climate Extremes Division of NCAR in the US, said on top of upping the proportion of major storms, increased sea surface temperatures would also lead to storms spending more time over land with increased precipitation.

We don’t have to think too far back for an example.

Beenleigh flood waters inundate vehicles
Flooding at Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, from Cyclone Debbie in 2017.(

ABC News: Matt Roberts


Cyclone Debbie in 2017 brought isolated 24-hour rainfall totals of more than 600mm on the Gold Coast hinterland, well away from its initial landfall in the Whitsundays.

According to Dr Bruyere, the warm waters were a driving factor of why Cyclone Debbie was so destructive after its initial impact.

“It wasn’t necessarily a significantly stronger storm but it rained a lot and it rained much further inland, and away from the area where the storm made landfall, than typical,” she said.

“I think the storms of the future are going to spend significantly more time over very warm water and therefore going to have that same signal of being long over land.”

The atmosphere’s capacity to hold water also increases by around 7 per cent with every degree the world warms, leading to more intense heavy rainfall.

On top of all that, rising sea levels will also lead to increased inundation from storm surge and flooding.

Cyclones moving south

Observations have shown both where cyclones form as well as where they reach their maximum intensity has been moving away from the equator in recent decades.

One theory is that as the world warms it is causing the Hadley Circulation, one of the major global atmospheric circulations that transports air and energy from the equator towards the poles, to expand effectively pushing cyclones away from the equator.


Dr Montgomery says that if cyclones move south and the intensity of storms goes up a little as well as the duration increasing then a tropical cyclone’s ability to impact the Australian population in southern Australia will go up.

“So that makes the southern part of Australia a little bit more prone to hurricane hazards than they are even presently,” he warned.

One of the areas of concern in Australia is south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, where the population density is much higher than the equivalent regions on the west coast.

Compared to the tropics, Dr Bruyere says both the high-density population as well as lower building codes mean there are a lot of people and a lot of less resilient property that could be damaged in south-east Queensland.

“I think one of the things that people should be planning for is potentially changing the building codes in the south to be more consistent to what is in the north,” she said.

“So that we have building stock in the south that would resist these storms when they do make landfall further south.”

Late season cyclones

But according to Mr Burton, it’s not unusual for cyclones like Seroja to come this far south this time of year.

“That’s because, as well as the patterns in the atmosphere shifting and encouraging them to travel further south before they turn into the coast, we also have the very warm sea surface temperatures,” he said.

“We’ve spent all season warming up the ocean off the west coast so there are some very warm sea surface temperatures there to help feed the cyclone as it’s coming further south and stop it from weakening.”

So if you are on the west coast prepare for some rare weather.

Keep up to date with warnings on the ABC Emergency website, Facebook or radio and remember to heed the advice of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Thanks for seeing this news article regarding Victoria and Australian news published as “Cyclones to bring more rain further south in future, say the weather experts”. This news article was brought to you by My Local Pages as part of our local and national news services.

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Ukraine says it will no longer visit Minsk for peace talks. Is this another sign of future conflict?

Kyiv will no longer be sending its delegation to Minsk for negotiations within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine (TCG). The reason? “Belarus today is under the influence of Russia and Kyiv has no trust in this territory.” This was announced by Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Monday, April 5 — his pronouncement came against the backdrop of an ongoing escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Meduza spoke with sources close to the Ukrainian leadership to find out whether these statements could threaten the entire negotiation process.

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Born Or Built? Our Robotic Future

Born Or Built? Our Robotic Future

Born Or Built? Our Robotic FutureBorn Or Built? Our Robotic Future


What lies ahead for our robotic future?

The line between humans and technology is blurring. We are creating machines that are increasingly humanlike while embracing technology into our bodies and lives making us more and more like the machines we build.

As creators of technology the questions we ask and the choices we make will shape our future. What will that future look like?

Born or Built? Our Robotic Future designed by Questacon comes to Scienceworks as a brand new experience in April 2021. The exhibition examines the similarities and differences between humans and machines explores our overlapping shared future and questions the choices that we make to get there.

After you’ve explored Born or Built in full why not head into the groundbreaking permanent exhibition Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen to learn about the hidden forces of science that shape our world? Or enjoy the entertainment of our new game-show style Lightning Room show: Lights Energy Action! With our recently updated cafe historic pumping station mind-bending Planetarium and plenty of room for the kids to run and play outside there’s something for the whole family. Make a day of it in the west by seeing how science works only at Scienceworks.


Bookings recommended – choose a session when booking museum entry tickets

Price range $10–$12

plus museum entry $0–$15

❊ When & Where ❊

Date/s: Saturday 3rd April 2021 – Friday 25th June 2021

Times: 10am – 4pm

❊ Venue ❊

 Scienceworks  Events 12
⊜ 2 Booker Street Spotswood | Map

Scienceworks2 Booker Street, Spotswood, , 3015

✆ Event: | Venue: (03) 9392 4800

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❊ Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update ❊

As Victoria takes action to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), events may be cancelled at short notice. Please confirm details before making plans | Disclaimer

❊ Web Links ❊

Born Or Built? Our Robotic Future

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