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National News Australia

CALLING ALL CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: HUNT FOR SHARK EGG CASES LAUNCHES IN AUSTRALIA

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CALLING ALL CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: HUNT FOR SHARK EGG CASES LAUNCHES IN AUSTRALIA

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is calling on citizen scientists to find and record egg cases washing up on Australian coasts, so researchers can better-understand oviparous chondrichthyans: egg-laying sharks, skates and chimaeras.

The Great Eggcase Hunt, an initiative of United Kingdom-based charity The Shark Trust, has launched in Australia in partnership with CSIRO to help provide new data for scientists studying the taxonomy and distribution of oviparous chondrichthyans.

Helen O’Neill, CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection biologist, said recording sightings of egg cases on beaches and coastlines would help scientists discover what the egg cases of different chondrichthyans look like, with some species still unknown.

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“Egg cases are important for understanding the basic biology of oviparous chondrichthyans, as well as revealing valuable information such as where different species live and where their nurseries are located,” Ms O’Neill said.

Cat Gordon, Senior Conservation Officer at The Shark Trust, said the Great Eggcase Hunt began in the United Kingdom 20 years ago and has since recorded more than 380,000 individual egg cases from around the world.

“We’re really excited to be partnering with CSIRO to officially launch this citizen science project in Australia and to be able to expand the Shark Trust’s eggcase identification resources,” Ms Gordon said.

“There’s such a diversity of species to be found around the Australian coastline, and with a tailored identification guide created for each state, they really showcase the different catsharks, skate, horn sharks, carpetsharks and chimaera eggcases that can be found washed ashore or seen while diving,” she said.

Also known as mermaids’ purses, egg cases come in many different shapes and colours, ranging from cream and butterscotch to deep amber and black. They range in size from approximately 4 to 25 centimetres.

Some egg cases have a smooth and simple appearance, while others have ridges, keels or curling tendrils that anchor them to kelp or coral. Port Jackson sharks have corkscrew-shaped egg cases that they wedge into rocks.

Each different species’ egg case has a unique morphology that is helpful in taxonomy, the science of describing and naming species.

“At the Australian National Fish Collection, we are matching egg cases to the species that laid them,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We borrow egg cases from other collections, museums and aquariums around the world and use our own specimens collected from fish markets and surveys at sea or extracted from the ovaries of preserved specimens in our collection,” she said.

Chondrichthyans have the most diverse reproduction strategies found among vertebrates, encompassing parthenogenesis (no father), multiple paternity (more than one father of the litter), adelphophagy (baby sharks predating each other in the womb) and various modes of egg laying.

Egg cases found on beaches rarely contain live embryos, whose incubation times range from a few months up to three years, depending on the species.

“Egg cases found washed up on beaches have likely already hatched, died prematurely due to being washed ashore or been predated on by creatures like sea snails, who bore a hole in the egg case and suck out the contents,” Ms O’Neill said.

The Shark Trust is a United Kingdom-based charity dedicated to safeguarding the future of sharks, skates, rays, and chimaera through positive change. The Trust achieves this through science, education, influence and action.

To get involved in the Great Eggcase Hunt, you can record sightings via the Shark Trust citizen science mobile phone app or through the project website.

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

 

The NSW Government has announced a $5.6 million initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into local council planning systems to address the ongoing housing crisis and shortage of planners. This move aims to accelerate development assessment times and enhance the efficiency of the planning process.

The “AI in NSW Planning” project has identified key areas within the development application assessment process that contribute to delays and could benefit from AI technologies.

After thorough evaluation, three innovative technologies have been selected for trials through the AI Solutions Panel and Early Adopter Grant Program:

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  • Adaptovate Pty Ltd’s Development Assessment Intelligence System (DAISY)
  • Archistar Platform
  • Propcode CDC

Councils are encouraged to apply for funding to test these technologies, with collaborative joint grant applications eligible for up to $500,000 and single council applications up to $200,000. This funding initiative is designed to foster innovative solutions to streamline the development application process.

Approximately 85 percent of all new home development applications in NSW are assessed by council staff. The introduction of recommended AI tools aims to reduce the average time taken to assess development applications by swiftly identifying administrative and data input errors.

Applications for the Early Adopter Grant Program are open to all councils and will close on 22 May 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by June.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, emphasised the transformative potential of the program: “This grant program is set to modernise the NSW planning system, enhancing its efficiency by equipping our planners with the best tools available. Our objective is to ensure the planning system operates at full capacity, which is essential for the timely delivery of new homes.”

For further details or to apply for a grant, councils are invited to visit the NSW Planning website. This initiative marks a significant step towards bringing NSW planning systems into the 21st century, leveraging technology to meet the growing needs of the community.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

 

In a significant boost for rural development, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has announced that nearly $1.4 million in grants have been distributed to 129 community groups across remote, rural, and regional Australia. These grants, part of the FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, aim to support a variety of local initiatives designed to enhance community cohesion and resilience.

The funding was allocated across three streams: community enhancements like upgrades to local facilities; COVID-19 recovery projects such as the creation of cultural precincts; and disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives, which include programs tailored for trauma-responsive community healing.

This round of SRC funding saw an unprecedented demand with 450 applications submitted, requesting over $4.5 million in support for projects collectively valued at more than $19 million. In response to the high demand, FRRR has streamlined its application process, significantly reducing the time from application to award to just nine weeks.

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Jill Karena, FRRR’s Place Portfolio Lead, highlighted the shifting landscape of funding in rural areas, noting a decrease in traditional government and local business support. “The SRC program’s flexibility and year-round availability are crucial, especially as communities transition from immediate disaster response to long-term recovery,” Karena explained. “This round we observed a notable increase in applications for community events funding and initiatives aimed at boosting local economies through tourism and other activities.”

Despite the generous grant allocations, there remains a significant unmet need within these communities. An additional 85 projects were ready for funding, seeking over $900,000 which could not be met due to limited resources. This underscores the critical role that small grants play in sustaining rural community groups and why FRRR is actively seeking new partners to expand its funding capabilities.

“Groups have expressed the importance of having access to timely and secure funding to support not just immediate needs but also medium and long-term goals,” said Ms. Karena. “These projects foster a strong sense of place and identity, and they require continuous support. We hope to engage more collaborative funders to join us in nurturing the heart of Australia’s rural sectors.”

A complete list of the grant recipients is available on the FRRR’s website. The SRC program is supported by a variety of donors, from private individuals to larger foundations, all listed on the FRRR’s website. Community groups and local not-for-profits are encouraged to review the program guidelines and consider applying for future rounds of funding.

More information about the SRC program can be found here.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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National Parenting Survey Unveils Challenges of Modern Parenting Amid Economic and Social Pressures

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National Parenting Survey Unveils Challenges of Modern Parenting Amid Economic and Social Pressures

 

In a landmark survey, the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program today disclosed findings from its most extensive parenting study to date, underscoring the severe impacts of economic hardships, emotional stress, sleep deprivation, and digital media concerns on the mental health and wellbeing of children.

A total of 8,304 parents and caregivers participated in this comprehensive national survey, orchestrated by Triple P founder and Clinical Psychologist at the University of Queensland, Professor Matt Sanders. The findings offer a detailed overview of the multitude of challenges confronting a broad and diverse demographic of Australian families.

Professor Sanders emphasised the urgency of the situation, stating, “The results reveal the current state of stress under which families in Australia are operating, amidst escalating financial difficulties, rising concerns over children’s mental health and wellbeing, and increasing instances of school refusal.”

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He further noted, “Parenting is a complex journey exacerbated by these pressing issues. It is imperative that we equip families on the front lines with evidence-based support to foster their wellbeing and enhance their parenting efficacy, ensuring the development of happy, resilient children.”

Key Insights from Triple P’s 2024 National Parenting Survey:

  • Financial Restraints: Approximately 90% of respondents have reduced spending due to cost-of-living increases, with significant cutbacks on dining out (81%), entertainment (70%), and vacations (69%). More than half have also scaled down on grocery expenses.
  • Emotional and Relationship Impact: 42% of parents reported that financial strain has adversely affected their capacity to maintain calm and nurturing relationships within the family.
  • Self-Care and Mental Health: Nearly half of all parents expressed dissatisfaction with their personal time for self-care activities such as exercising, socialising, or engaging in hobbies. About two-thirds feel guilty about the time spent with their children, and a substantial majority (83%) of parents with young children under five years old experience sleep deprivation weekly.
  • Communication and Discipline: Over 80% of parents find themselves raising their voice or yelling at their children, highlighting the strain of parenting under stress.
  • Digital Concerns: The digital realm poses significant challenges; 85% of parents who allow their children to use social media report regular conflicts, and a strong majority remains concerned about online safety (82%) and the impact of social media on their children’s mental health (79%).

Professor Sanders advocates for proactive engagement, “These findings underscore the importance of equipping parents and caregivers with effective strategies to guide their children’s digital interactions. Regular, open discussions about technology use are essential for navigating this complex landscape.”

Despite these challenges, the survey revealed a resilient streak among parents, with 80% optimistic that their children would lead better lives than their own.

“The response underscores the pivotal role of parents and caregivers as agents of change in their children’s lives. To support this vital role, we continue to provide accessible, evidence-based parenting resources, with over 270,000 Australian families already benefiting from our online support programs,” added Professor Sanders.

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care under the Parenting Education and Support Program, the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program offers essential resources for parents and caregivers, accessible at triplep-parenting.net.au.

The survey was executed by C|T Group on behalf of Triple P International, reflecting a national initiative to address and mitigate parenting challenges through strategic support and guidance.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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