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FM Radio Broadcasts
Weekly program guides for the weekly radio programs broadcast on the Sydney station 2SER 107.3fm and nationally via the CBAA Community Radio Network. Click on the links to reach soundfiles and stories for individual interviews.  The 2SER website  includes podcasts of programs for current and recent weeks.



All theme and incidental music on A Question of Balance is by Desert Child (Guy Ghouse and Damian Watkiss) from Broome WA.

Guy (left) and Damian performing at the Big Moon Rising Festival.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 9 October 2018 

Earth’s longest lifelines and fossil evidence of the earliest complex communities with descendants still slowly forming similar ‘modern’ forms of the stromatolites. Dr Brendan Burns, from the University of NSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, takes a closer look at ancient life on Earth, one that produced amazing structures called stromatolites. Stromatolites are basically living rocks. If you tap on them it is like tapping on concrete but they are alive, formed very slowly over vast periods of time by perhaps the simplest and most ancient forms of life on Earth - bacteria. While microbial mats and stromatolites were not necessarily the first forms of life, it was the grouping together of different microorganisms that gave rise to the structures of microbial mats and stromatolites. Complex communities of microorganisms then evolved and adapted to work well together in a low oxygen environment. This assisted the survival of the entire ecosystem, making them one of the most prevalent ecosystems on early Earth.

A Question of Balance Tuesday, 18 September 2018 Where were the women in Frog research? Absent or overlooked? Dr Arthur White, president of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS), looks at the history of Australian women working on frogs. People have worked on Australian frogs since the 1830s but the names of any women don’t appear until the 1970s, 140 years later! Arthur describes the exceptional work of five such women who in the earlier examples, sadly received no formal academic recognition of their outstanding scientific contributions. There was a tradition that only certain people could put their names on publications, along with a hierarchy of whose names could go where, so technicians and other non-academic appointments didn’t get a look in. Arthur briefly describes the cutting edge work and findings of seven outstanding ‘girl guides'! Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday, 25 September 2018 
Farm drought proofing: Peter Andrews vs Keyline vs Permaculture There’s plenty of talk about drought lately but is anyone in the media talking about Peter Andrews, Keyline or Permaculture? They should be, because these are all proven approaches to drought proofing farms.  Peter Andrews has been the subject of documentaries on ABC TV Australian Story, author of the book “Back from the Brink” and a controversial figure in Australian farming. One example is the way he rehabilitated a dry gully into a thriving watercourse at a horse breeding farm in the upper Hunter Valley.  Cick here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 4 September 2018
Wildlife conservation is one of many strands of sustainability. Nancy Pallin, a long time contributor to A Question of Balance on bats, discusses her history with wildlife conservation, an attachment that has lasted many years.  Right place right time was often the key factor to explain how some groups became involved in many such activities. Nancy Pallin describes a series of turning points in her own life that opened up new or different conservation work and areas for her. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 28 August 2018
Longterm follow up for some of our Australian frog reports with Dr Arthur White, August 2018: Together with the original material, AQOB discusses current progress and in some cases, outcome or fate of the project. Click on link for original story and soundfile and update
The Lazarus Project – success is brooding The Lazarus Project is still beset by technical problems, something which also happened in the control set-up. During the structuring of the cell wall some trigger or chemical code has to be met for the cells to go to their correct position. Attempts for the extinct gastric brooding frog and common species of frogs also failed. The team has spent the last two years doing a lot of mundane chemistry to discover the trigger needed. When they find the trigger the team will have learned how the control of the designation of particular cells in early embryos is determined, a real breakthrough! 
Click here for story and soundfile. 
2 Atrazine: the DDT of the new Millennium? Atrazine, which has been widely scattered across Australia’s biological landscape, is still active after 30 years. We don’t know how to get rid of it and while some countries have banned it, Australia hasn’t. Atrazine is still a sleeping poison. Click 
here for stories and soundfiles.
3 Chemical Weapons Frogs, who have soft wet skins that are perfect places for fungi and bacteria to thrive, must have techniques to defend them. Frogs produce secretions with anti-fungal agents and bactericides. It is these secretions that will be the basis for a new generation of antibiotics. Click 
here for story and soundfile. The good thing is frogs have used this defence for a hundred million years and there is no sign of any resistance... or is it just that we have never looked at this? There is also a lot of research into microorganisms that occur in oceanic waters since the surprise discovery that there are vast numbers of viruses that naturally occur in seawater. Indeed, there are more marine viruses than terrestrial ones and marine creatures that lay largely unprotected eggs must have chemical safeguards against these viruses. Chemical warfare, which has been going since time began, will be the key to replacing things like penicillin.
4 Breeding stupid – designer frogs! The issue of designer animals is not going to go away. The USA has certainly seen it with reptiles like the rose boa. Selective breeding produces different colour variants and each year a new colour variant becomes the fad. Older boas lose their value so people just get rid of them. Consequently a number of states (especially the southern ones) have an immense problem with the number of animals released into the wild. Some survive and become feral. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
5 Green and Golden Bell Frog Recovery Plan for NSW The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change is now the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). The current OEH does not prepare recovery plans because they don’t have the funding to enact on such plans! This is all part of a general reduction in funding to the environmental section of government services. The recovery plan for the Green and gold bell frog is still at the same draft stage as 10 years ago!  
File now closed.

6 Where are the Painted Desert Frogs in NSW?  One of the problems for the Painted desert frog (Neobatrachus) is that there is another species that looks similar and occurs in NSW. When people claimed to have heard this desert burrowing frog in the far south west of NSW it got recorded on the Wildlife Atlas as a positive record. Dr White was suspicious because the habitat there was not right. He has visited several times and is convinced they are not there. File now closed
7 Wooing back the Wenoona bell frogs While the frogs' own behavioural preference for gathering of males in groups to call to attract females (called lecting)was successful, the long term prognosis for the frogs is not good. The site has run into management problems so the frogs are unlikely to survive in the long term. File will now be closed.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 21 August 2018
NEGative Resistance Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, looks at how National Energy Guarantee (NEG) came about, what it means and how it is being received. When the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, released his report into the energy sector 49 of his 50 recommendations were accepted by the federal government. The 50th, on the Clean Energy Target, was rejected. In its place is the NEG, designed to be a policy framework with three key pillars. The NEG is designed to reduce emissions, to keep electricity costs down and to ensure the electricity supply is reliable for all Australians. It is essentially a framework for developing an energy policy and there have been extensive consultations with stakeholders in the lead up to its release. The NEG needs the support of all the states and territories (just one veto kills it) as well as the Coalition party room, where coalition flat-earthers still ask for more coal to make energy reliable. External consultants were engaged by the Energy Security Board (ESB) to model aspects of the NEG, showing how it would improve energy supply reliability, reduce emissions and keep costs down. The ESB would not release that modelling, so this lack of transparency by the government reasonably creates distrust. The massive boom in solar energy generation being built in Australia is driven in part by an environmental certificate scheme related to the renewable energy target (RET). The certificates are created when renewable energy capacity is built. They have a monetary value that helps to subsidise the building of that renewable system or increase the financial savings of the electricity produced in the longer term. Australia is on track to reach the 2030 target of 26% by 2022 (probably before the NEG comes into effect!). Some industry analysts are concerned that when subsidies associated with the Renewable Energy Target decrease after 2022, there will be no further development of the renewable energy sector for ten years. Others say solar is so cheap to build that it doesn’t need any subsidies. Our electricity industry accounts for 35%, the largest single sector contribution of greenhouse gas emissions and is the cheapest way for Australia to make significant reductions in emissions. It is absurd to think that building new coal fired power stations will reduce electricity prices. Coal-fired power stations cost much more than new solar ones. Some renewable power sources are already approximating base load power by having storage available. A number of external advocates like the Clean Energy Council and the Smart Energy Council are not seeing eye-to-eye so there is very little agreement about how the NEG should look. Liberals are concerned about their political longevity after the recent by-elections and Josh Frydenberg does not have unanimous support in the coalition party room. The most significant development in energy policy for a decade comes after the explosion of renewables in Australia driven by economics and NOT policy. A decent energy policy can provide investment certainty for the future but will we achieve that with such NEGative resistance? Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 14 August 2018
Talking points  P
rofessor Darryl Jones, from Griffith University, explains why crows have gained a deserved reputation as the smartest bird in the world. Crows are among the few birds which have a true repertoire of calls. As well as “arks” there are weird clucks, clicks and gurgles, all part of having a big brain and being seriously smart. We now know that crows have the most complex calls, vocalisations and communication of any animal apart from humans. This communication is more complicated than dolphins and whales and exhibits more syntax in its construction, which is why people are now using the word language to describe it. Crows weren’t in cities like Sydney until 50-60 years ago but have moved in very successfully and are doing really well, having worked out exactly how to co-exist with humans. They learn quickly, are very attentive, observant and don’t take risks. Crows watch and interpret human behaviour so they are almost impossible to trap as they know what is going on. Studies by John Marzluff from Seattle’s University of Washington show strong relationships between groups of crows and people. An individual crow can recognise up to 50 people and can predict when people do things. Crows can learn people’s routine walks and follow them around, communicating with them if the people talk to them. Recently three Queensland school principals have asked Darryl what to do about the crows, which had become a problem. They had learned how to open school bags (outside the classrooms), take the lunchboxes out and open them to get the food inside. Incredibly, if the lunchbox was light enough, it would be carried to the next building and opened there! New Caledonian crows may be even smarter. There, crows can carefully manufacture little pieces of wood which they carry around. When a New Caledonian crow wants to get grubs and caterpillars from logs and rotted wood it selects a tool to use, much like we use a Swiss army knife.  Crows are successful living in our urban environments because they know how the people work. Just like scientists they observe, interpret and act on this knowledge. Given a choice between an immediate food reward or a better one if they wait, crows will wait 72 hours for the better reward. This means they are actually thinking ahead, something no other animal (apart from chimps and orangutans) can do. Crows are now nesting on buildings in southern Queensland and Darryl will have a “crow cam” at Griffith University soon. Whichever way you look at it, there are a lot of talking points for crows. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 7 August 2018
Sustainable design: microclimates and biodiversity Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, continues his examination of the elements of sustainable design with a focus on microclimate and diversity. Energy is used if the climate is outside a favourable range and the main way to influence the outside microclimate (and save energy resources) is vegetation. Trees provide shade that is cooler than the shade under a tin roof. Trees also cut out wind and both cold and hot winds put a lot of stress on plants and animals. It can be really simple to have a low energy house without air conditioning. Nature is stable because it is diverse. A farm with one crop has a big problem if something goes wrong with that crop. One with a hundred crops has a small problem if something goes wrong with one of them. Monoculture agriculture is a huge problem and obviously unsustainable. We have been growing food for thousands of years in a diverse manner and today the progressive farms are diversifying, recognising the economic security of having a diverse range of crops and products. People are doing good things. The organic farming industry is growing in Australia Shops that specialise in organic food way are more accessible than in the past. It is true that we don’t have a high availability of sustainably grown food at a good price but people should either grow their own or develop a better local organic food industry. The Philippines is a good example of diversity. A lot of people only have 10-20 m˛ of garden and they grow all their food in it. This whole backyard ecology even controls insect predators and pests. Nature is self-maintaining which is why diversity is so stable. When we try to force oversimplified solutions onto landscapes we are fighting nature and that takes an awful lot of work and energy. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 31 July 2018 
Janet Abbott, from the Underwater Research Group (URG), recounts some of her diving experiences. Janet grew up inland in England in a small village 25 miles from the sea. The only time she saw the sea was on annual holidays to the seaside. She was never given swimming lessons and learnt by herself using an old inner tube from a car tyre. She emigrated to Australia in 1980. Diving never entered her thoughts until 1997 when a friend of a friend invited her on a holiday, with diving being a large component of it. Not being a very good swimmer she took herself to the local swimming pool every day for a month to practice the 200m swim necessary to pass the Open Water diving qualification.  Successfully completing the Open Water and Advance courses at the end of 1997 before going on the tropical holiday in early 1998. Click here for story and sound file.
Winter breeding frogs: Not all Australian frogs breed during the warmer months, and Arthur White looks at the the advantages for two Sydney species that will only breed in winter. It's hard to imagine that there could be any advantages for a cold-blooded animal like a frog to lay its eggs only in winter when food is less plentiful and the cold slows the development of tadpoles. However two species of frogs local to the Sydney region behave in this way and their populations are doing well. These are the Jervis Bay Tree Frog and Hazwell’s Froglet which is a ground dweller. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 24 July 2018
Animals in Ancient Egyptian Art: Cracking the code: Dr Linda Evans, from the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, draws on her experience with the depiction of animals and animal behaviour in ancient Egyptian tomb art and comes up with some surprising information about Egyptian knowledge in those areas. Click
here for story and soundfile.
How adaptable are Australian frogs? Dr Arthur White discusses how some Australian frogs adapt to current threats to their environment. As humans continue to alter the landscape, it is logical to think that frogs will be displaced or even die out. While that is true for some species there are, other frogs with specific habitat needs that have managed to survive. This is because they have a capacity to change their requirements when faced with gradual environmental change, such as a slowly drying wetland......gradual change is the key. 
Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 17 July 2018
Did ancient Egyptians keep pets, It is widely assumed that the ancient Egyptians kept pets, from dogs and cats to all kinds of monkeys   (such as baboons) as well as ducks and geese. But what do we mean by this? Pets today have particular characteristics that separate them from non-pets. They usually have a distinct name, are cared for in terms of their food and welfare, are kept close to their owners with lots of physical contact, and they are animals with which we form a strong emotional bond. Dr Linda Evans looked into our modern characteristics of pets and considered them in terms of the ancient Egyptian evidence. Click here for story and soundfile.
High energy cost of shorebirds' migratory lifestyles Chris Hassell, shorebird researcher with the Global Flyway Network, discusses some of the extraordinary changes that migratory shorebirds regularly undergo.The only constant in a migratory shorebird's life is constant change - feathers, body proportions, feeding time and location. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance 10 July 2018
Left behind? Shorebirds at Roebuck Bay in winter: Dr Danny Rogers provides an insight into why some young shorebirds stay in their Australian feeding grounds rather than migrating to their northern breeding grounds.The preparation for this migration takes months and the feeding grounds of Roebuck Bay are the source of the stored energy that is required for this long journey The birds must virtually double their body weight to reach the Chinese Coast, their main stopover on the way north. Young birds, still learning the art of successful foraging, cannot feed fast enough to build up their bodies sufficiently by the departure deadline. They must reach the breeding grounds by the beginning of June to have any chance of breeding successfully in the short nesting season of the Arctic summer. So, not surprisingly, the many birds left at Roebuck Bay over the Australian winter are too young to make the return flight north.
Click here for story and soundfile.
Shore birds feeding styles:  Dr Danny Rogers looks at the wide range of feeding styles that the shorebirds employ on the mudflats of Roebuck Bay. Roebuck Bay, in Western Australia, is one of the most important feeding grounds for migratory shorebirds. Given the huge numbers of birds that this ecosystem supports, it is hardly surprising that there are different feeding styles on view.. Click here for story and soundfile. 
Complex social behaviours take intelligence: Dr Culum Brown describes some unusual interactions common among fishes. Click here for soundfile and video links

A Question of Balance Tuesday 26 June 2018 
Goldmine! Dr Arthur White, explains his work for an Australian mining company that had to deal with a threatened species, the pink-tailed worm lizard. This skinny burrowing lizard has no legs. It’s about 10-15cm and looks like an animated shoelace. It only eats the pupae of a couple of species of ants, crawling down the ant tunnels to eat them.  In 2001 one of the lizards was found on a site being pegged out for a rare earth mine at Toongi near Dubbo. Arkane Resources was after the rare metals niobium, erbium, yttrium and zirconium formed when deep earth lavas come to the surface. The ones at Toongi formed during the Jurassic period and, after erosion, exposed  areas called  trachytes were formed. Six were drilled, and one showed economic amounts of the rare earth metals. Niobium, for instance, fetches $180 thousand for each gram! Arkane resources took 10years to formulate a development plan and to get financing, even knocking back Chinese offers (the Chinese control world prices). In 2012 the company engaged Dr White to find out exactly what was going on with the pink-tailed worm lizard so the planners could work out how to develop the site while avoiding critical habitat areas. For three years Dr White flipped over rocks to find the lizards and gathered data on the vegetation, soil type and rock types found. This created a whole series of habitat descriptors across a large region. The variables of vegetation, soil and rock types were then looked at.
When the trachytes weathered they did so by onion peeling, the layers ending up as shards on the soils that the lizards used in spring and autumn when they came close to the surface. Since one of the trachytes was going to be mined Dr White then looked at ways of offsetting that habitat loss. Old roof tiles were set up in ten clusters. The tiles were either laid out in single file or in blocks of four the tiles influenced the soil temperature and the soil humidity, particularly under the blocks of tiles. A lot of animals used the tiles (geckos, centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers) and within six months the pink-tailed worm lizards were also living there. This had the potential to create even more habitat than was going to be lost. The company has worked hard to avoid the other trachytes and is currently doing large-scale habitat recreation. It is a great example of what can be done when a mining company works with scientists. For the company and the lizard the project has turned out to be a goldmine!  Click here for story and soundfile.
Birds’ higher body temperature and super efficient respiratory systems enhances muscle function - but the high blood pressure has a cost: Birds run at a higher metabolic rate than mammals. Their core body temperature is around 40°C, a temperature akin to fever in humans. This means that birds are running at the edge of limitations but it has advantages. For every 10°C increase in temperature, synapse responses improve by a factor of 1.8, muscle contractions become three times more efficient along with greater muscle strength.
The lungs of birds have adapted to this high metabolic rate, which requires much oxygen and, unlike mammalian lungs, birds get complete oxygen overturn in every breath. The tissue between the blood and air capillaries is much thinner, so the rate of oxygen exchange is much faster. Such oxygen efficiency allows birds to fly at high altitudes.
The evolution of birds’ lungs happened somewhere between 175 and 205 million years ago, when oxygen content was about half of what it is today, which is the equivalent to living at 14,000 feet above sea level.
Birds also exist with higher blood pressure, making them very prone to heart attacks and strokes. This is especially the case for wild birds that are trapped. This is why it is best to place injured birds in a quiet, dark box, guarding against increased stress. Birds’ hearts are 50 to 100 times larger than mammalian hearts for an equivalent sized body. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 June 2018
Australia's ongoing saga of the electric vehicle revolution: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, charges into the fast-changing world of electric vehicles to bring us up to speed on this new revolution. There are a number of electric vehicles on the market. There are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Toyota Prius that can be driven on petrol or electric and there are battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that have no internal combustion engines at all. Electric vehicles include passenger cars, logistical type trucks for transporting goods as well as electric motor cycles, currently very popular in China. The International Energy Agency predicts that globally there will be 220 million electric vehicles by 2030 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons there will be 559 million electric vehicles by 2040. Some Scandinavian countries have electric vehicles as 25% of new vehicles sales. These incredible numbers show the shift away from internal combustion engines that will take place in the next decades. Electric vehicles are three times more efficient as petrol motors and they also have regenerative braking which puts the kinetic energy from movement back into the battery. When petrol cars brake the kinetic energy is turned into heat which is lost to the environment, making them less efficient. Electric scooters (China has millions of them) are a lot quieter than two-stroke motorbikes and create much less pollution. The discussions around electric vehicles are like renewables and subject to manipulation for particular ends but the inescapable fact is that electric vehicles are now firmly on the radar of all major car manufacturers. In Australia Jaguar is planning to install an electric car charging network before it releases its electric Jaguar this year and Tesla is also building one. The Australian Capital Territory government has committed to installing 50 charging stations within the ACT for use by its government fleet. Ultimately the idea is to charge all electric vehicles from renewable energy sources. Without government incentives electric vehicles are seen as premium products and not affordable for most people. Australian awareness of electric vehicles is lower than it could be with unexpected barriers. One is that car dealerships do not promote them, something repeated world-wide since most profit does not come from selling vehicles but from finance and service contracts. Electric vehicles need little service. Australia is one of the only OECD countries that does not have government incentives to promote the uptake of electric vehicles. In terms of the future of vehicles are we really moving forwards? Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 June 2018
In Memorium: Clarrie Lawler - a leading light
Clarrie Lawler, past president of URG, passed away in early May, at the age of 89. He self taught himself to scuba dive in the 1960s, despite not being able to swim properly and joined the Underwater Research Group of NSW and served as secretary and then president for several years. He co-authored Beneath Australian Seas in 1970 with Walter Deas and contributed to other books and journals. He is also an honorary member of the Australian Museum for his contribution collecting specimens for them. An amazing illustrator and a captivating story teller, it is a big loss for the club as he was such a prominent member who contributed so much to the club and to citizen science. Condolences go to his daughter, Denise (URG secretary), and to his family. He will be greatly missed, as will his captivating stories about his underwater adventures in the 1950s and 60s.  Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 May 2018
The Write Approach: Professor Darryl Jones, urban ecologist from Griffith University and author of the book The Birds at My Table, gives some advice for those who want to publish in the scientific field. Professor Jones strongly believes that anyone involved in publically funded scientific research has an obligation to communicate it. This should be done in a style that is accessible to the general public and doesn’t diminish the complexities of the scientific work. It is an antidote to the standard approach from academics that journalists don’t understand their work and don’t report it well. Once senior colleagues told him he was wasting too much time writing popular articles and should concentrate on scientific journals but now you get brownie points for appearing in the general public. Some scientists (and some fields of science) still hide in their labs and don’t communicate with people. Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 22 May 2018
Sea Monster: Rianti Bieleri, from the Underwater Research Group, enters the murky waters of marine pollution where, unfortunately, plastic pollution reigns supreme. Plastics are especially a problem as they never biodegrade. They do break down into tiny pieces called micro plastics (less than 5mm in size) and can break down into even smaller pieces (which can’t be seen) called nano plastics. These are consumed by marine animals like plankton which in turn get eaten by creatures further up the food chain which is how marine animals like dolphins can be affected. Click
here for story and soudfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 15 May 2018
Sowing Circle: Bellingen Seed Savers  is a modern sowing circle, trying to keep their varieties of seed alive. It  is a free and welcoming 'gardening club' interested in food security, heritage seeds and vegetable gardening where people can learn to grow their own food, exchange seeds, help each other and have a lot of fun doing it. The group covers a wide geographical area north of Bellingen from sub-tropical Coffs Harbour to the mountains of Dorrigo. Fiona Morgan, representative of the Bellingen Seed Savers, explains how the group helps locals interested in edible gardening. Click here for soundfile. and story

A Question of Balance Tuesday 1 May 2018
Style Counsel: Professor Darryl Jones, urban ecologist from Griffith University, outlines the process of making his just-published book, The Birds at My Table. Books don’t come out of nowhere so they must be important to authors who devote a lot of their time to them. Authors have to be thoughtful about who might be interested in a particular topic and therefore might  buy a book on this. Professor Jones wanted to reach people who were already feeding wild birds. This required a different style of writing from typical scientific papers. After the book was written, he spent a fruitless year and a half trying to approach publishers throughout the world,. He contacted about 50 publishers and only five said they would look at it and only two actually read it!.  Publishers said it wasn’t appropriate for an Australian to be writing on a topic that wasn’t a big thing in Australia compared to the US or the UK. As soon as he had agent on board, however, everything changed. This was somebody who knew the system, could communicate with publishers and knew which publishers to approach. She was able to deal with the detailed technical contracts that are part of the publishing process, allowing authors to concentrate on writing the book, leaving the technical stuff to someone who knows what they are doing. The path to publishing can be a rocky one. It is quite clear that the process of creative writing is assisted by some style counsel. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 24 April 2018
Price fixing: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, takes a closer look at what is happening in the electricity market at both state and federal levels. At a state level South Australia’s new premier, Steve Marshall, has undertaken to honour any contracts in the renewable energy sector that were drawn up under his predecessor Jay Wetherill. The promise to supply 50,000 homes with Tesla power walls is likely to continue to some extent because the first 1,000 homes to get solar panels and batteries will be government housing. This will help those households hedge against retail costs going up but it is also the beginning of a distributed battery which can also help stabilise the South  Australian electricity grid. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 17 April 2018
Sustainable Design Part II: Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, examines the elements of good design and how design needs to become sustainable. Design is how we put together all the different elements and processes included in a plan. A house, is not just pieces of timber and roofing but also a set of processes involving different people, for example, tradespeople and owners. The finished house incorporates many different processes such as cooking and cleaning and movement and interactions between people. Designers have to think about both elements and processes but architects, for instance, don’t often include processes. The poorest people in the country live in units and state housing designed by architects who live a completely different lifestyle. Very few of such homes actually work. A better approach is iterative design where the aim is to make the design a solution to a problem. The designer must ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers to gain the information needed to understand the design problem. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 10 April 2018
Gutsy Work: Dr Michelle Power, Associate Professor at Macquarie University Department of Biological Sciences explains her research into the impact of human-associated organisms on our wildlife Dr Power trained as a parasitologist working on Cryptosporidium and Giardia just after Sydney’s water crisis some years ago. She is interested in the gut as an ecological system and how different organisms invade the gut bacterial community. 75% of new and emerging diseases of humans have come from wildlife sources (termed zoonoses) and the impact of these disease means that public health is often used as an emphasis to attract funding Her current research group is interested in the reverse of that process, when organisms that cause human disease make their way into wildlife. These human-associated parasites are not necessarily directly transferred to wildlife but pollution of the environment through things like sewage and waste water means such parasites can find their way into different wildlife species. One of the biggest vectors is water and the protozoan parasites that she studies are transmitted by water, a risk if we contaminate swimming pools and river systems. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 3 April 2018
Wildlife impacts from solar and wind farms: Dr Arthur White, president of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS) discusses the impact of wind and solar farms on wildlife. Windfarms have been around longer than solar farms (in Europe for more than 30 years) and animal studies include effects of noise and risk of animal strikes on turbine blades. Solar farms are of the large array format, and water birds sometimes land on them, mistaking the sparkling panels for a body of water while flying across them. Insects are also attracted to the solar panels and that attracts a whole group of other animals to the site. With the right planning the impacts of wind and solar farms on wildlife can be minimised. Even industry has decided that renewable energy is the most economical option for the future.

here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday, 27 March 2018
In site giving insight? 
Brush Turkey join the Wingtags flock  Dr John Martin, wildlife ecologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, explains the branching out of the Wingtag citizen science project to include the Australian Brush-turkey. Brush-turkeys are an old world bird. The male birds build mounds that look like a pile of mulch (5m round and 1m high) which incubates the eggs that females lay. This is an old nesting behaviour that modern birds don’t use. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday, 20 March 2018
Where were the women in Frog research? Absent or overlooked?
Dr Arthur White, president of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS), looks at the history of Australian women working on frogs. People have worked on Australian frogs since the 1830s but the names of any women don’t appear until the 1970s, 140 years later! Arthur describes the exceptional work of five such women who in the earlier examples, sadly received no formal academic recognition of their outstanding scientific contributions. There was a tradition that only certain people could put their names on publications, along with a hierarchy of whose names could go where, so technicians and other non-academic appointments didn’t get a look in. Arthur briefly describes the cutting edge work and findings of seven outstanding ‘girl guides'! Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 13 March 2018
Water Craft: Martin Puchert, from the Underwater Research Group (URG), explains how diving with a purpose opens your eyes to what is really happening underwater. Diving with a purpose is diving where you have some sort of goal to achieve – some sort of measurement or observation or a research program adds a new dimension to diving. Martin has been diving for citizen science programs for the last three years -. He joined a program, Reef Life Survey, which surveyed the life on coral and rocky reefs. It required divers to identify fish and invertebrate species at a site, including sizes and estimates of numbers. Such citizen science programs mean participants meet with other divers and scientists who can share knowledge. He is surprised that when you look for information about any marine creature there is usually very little apart from an anatomical description. It is very hard to get hold of information on behaviours, life cycles and how and where they breed. Survey observations are often bizarre. Blue gropers all start out as females and there are one or two males for a harem of females. If a male dies then one of the females becomes the new male! Crimson banded wrasse all stay female until roughly five years of age when they all become male, showing how little we know about many marine creatures. There are pressures on marine life that we don’t think about. People with aquariums know how sensitive fish are to slight changes in PH, nitrogen or temperature and many marine species lose habitat from warmer water, pollution and fishing practices such as trawling. Diving with a purpose can reveal what is really happening in our waters, as Martin Puchert has discovered. Diving with a purpose is a real water craft. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 March 2018
The Generation Gap: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, explains why 2017 was so important in terms of renewable energy, especially in South Australia. The amount of renewable energy installed in Australia in 2017 was more than in any other year in our history! The revolution started in the residential sector (1 in 4 houses in NSW currently has solar panels) and is now making inroads into the commercial sector. Shops, factories and many companies see renewables as a way of hedging against the volatility in the grid electricity market while getting energy security and cost security. It is difficult to say whether the federal government will support increased renewables, as there is a perception they are wedded to fossil fuel generation and believe that is the only way to achieve reliable energy security. The states, however, present a different picture, particularly South Australia. who have decided to go it alone to achieve a more reliable energy system.

South Australia is showing the world what can be done rather than the blinkered vision of coal and gas as the only way to get baseload energy. Indeed the very idea of baseload energy is an invention of the coal-fired electricity industry. Fossil fuel generators have to keep running because they can’t shut down or start up rapidly. Sourcing energy that can be virtually instantaneously connected to, or disconnected from the grid (dispatchable electricity) will see us saying goodbye to baseload and hello to dispatchable.

Gentailers like AGL (a generator and a retailer) are abandoning coal for renewables for purely economic reasons. Renewable generators are known as a near zero marginal cost form of generation. Once a plant is built and paid off then the electricity generated over the remaining service life of that system is almost free because you don’t need to keep feeding it fuel. Steam power started the first industrial revolution and renewable power generation will usher in another. The generation gap is being bridged, and South Australia is leading the way  Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 27 February 2018
Seeking Sanctuary: Martin Puchert, from the Underwater Research Group (URG), examines the health of marine life in Sydney waters and argues the case for setting up a Sydney-wide marine park. The region from Newcastle to Wollongong is an area of the NSW coast that doesn't have a marine park. Less than 1% of that coastline is protected from fishing. Scientific recommendations are generally that at least 30% of each marine habitat should be protected. Sydney alone has over 5 million people. Fishing restrictions are based on bag limits per person, which conscientious fishers follow, but if everyone in Sydney took their bag limit there would be no fish very quickly. This problem can't be seen from the surface. Divers can appreciate the problem, and can easily see positive differences where fishing is not allowed. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 20 February 2018
A new working order: Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, lays the groundwork for a new way of thinking about how humans interact with the environments they create, using the sustainability of forests as a model. Wherever we live humans have an impact on the environment but what would happen if we could design those places so that they were sustainable? click here for story and soundfile.
A new kind of bookmaker: Professor Darryl Jones, urban ecologist from Griffith University, explores some of the background motivations and the eventual publishing machinations of his book The Birds at My Table. Right from the beginning Professor Jones had a strong motivation to write the book. He thought it was an important topic that needs to be discussed in great detail by everybody, not just scientists or academics. He also wanted to tell Australians what was really going on with bird feeding because it was a controversial issue. 
click here for story and soundfile


A Question of Balance Tuesday 13 February 2018 and 19 December 2017
Personal Development Associate Professor Clare McArthur, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, explains the implications of research linked to different personalities in possum foraging. In this latest research on possums, personality, plants, poisons and primary parasites all play a part. The studies follow on from experimental work a few years ago that showed personality, laid on top of predation risk and plant toxins, explained variations in how individual possums forage. The latest research looked at how possums used their environment, what food they ate in their natural world and how personality affected this. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 February 2018
Bird Feeding Bible ... The Birds at My Table:
 Professor Darryl Jones, urban ecologist from Griffith University, spreads the word on his soon to be published book. This is a popular science book that absolutely anyone can understand. Science is about doing the research and then telling people in the most effective way. This is a far cry from the currency of success in the university system in getting papers published in prestigious journals that hardly anybody reads. Subtitled "Why we feed birds and why that matters", the book is an exploration of everything you could possibly think of to do with feeding birds in backyards. Part of the motivation for writing the book was to counter the prevalent Australian attitude that such backyard bird feeding is the wrong thing to do. Given that about four million people in Australia actively buy food specifically to feed the birds in their backyards, this is obviously extremely popular. Bird feeding is a genuinely important and profound connection with something wild, an experience done on a daily basis. One person he interviewed said, “They (the birds) don’t need to come. They could decide not to visit but for some reason they are willing to come from their wild lives and visit me in my home.” As hosts, bird feeders have to make sure the food is good quality and clean and that the food is spread so birds aren’t artificially concentrated in one place, preventing fights and the spread of disease. Hosts also have to be aware that predators will take advantage of concentrations of birds at particular times of the day. In other parts of the world the average size of birds coming to feed is small, like the blue tits and chickadees in the US. The main birds coming to feed in Australia (magpies, butcher birds, rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos) are much larger and, because magpies are the top visitor, meat is the most common food provided, unlike other parts of the world. Whatever food is provided (mince, seeds) it turns out that it is only a small fraction of the birds’ diets as they are still getting most of their food from the natural world. This means that bird feeders can go on holidays and even stop altogether knowing that it will not affect the birds. The official date announcing the book by Cornell University Press is 21 March for the US and the UK but in Australia, the local publishers, New South Publishers, will have them available in bookshops around 10 March. Unlike other parts of the world Australia has never had a guide about backyard bird feeding, so at $27 this might become the bible of bird feeding in Australia. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 December 2017
Power to the People: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, looks at the state of play of renewable electricity generation in Australia and at the contribution that a fearless visionary like Elon Musk brings to the future of electricity. There is an enormous amount of activity in the renewable energy space in Australia at the moment. The world’s biggest battery is now patched into the South Australian electricity grid to help stabilise it during an unforeseen event with the main saving is avoiding building another gas-peaking power station. There are still significant challenges in the development of renewable energy in Australia. We are stuck with the transmission grid because it cost a huge amount of money to put up that infrastructure, the big iron towers with all the struts and beams that support high voltage cables. This grid was designed to move energy from big centralised coal-burning power stations around the countryside. It was not designed to have a large number of smallish renewable generators connected into it at various points along the transmission lines, a two-way transfer of energy. A solar farm, for instance, has to find land that is close to the grid where it has the capacity to accept the energy created. In many cases solar farm owners must build their own grid connections at a cost of $1.2 million per kilometre of cable. The cost of electricity from a solar farm over its 25 year service life is 3-5 cents per kilowatt hour whereas we are paying 25-30c per kilowatt hour for fossil fuel-based energy. Investment certainty in renewable development is sorely lacking at a federal government level and there is concern is that after the early 2020s there will be no further incentives to develop renewable energy. We hear about loss of jobs in the coal industry but not the gain of jobs in the renewables energy sector. In another field, the global electric vehicle revolution has begun. Elon Musk from Tesla Motors has launched the Tesla truck, a full-sized heavy haulage truck with a range of 800 km on one charge. The truck can maintain 100 kilometres per hour up a pretty decent hill and when empty can accelerate from 0-11 kph in under 5 seconds. The total cost of ownership of this truck over its service life is 20% lower than a diesel one. Tesla vehicles (models S and X) are on the road right now. They are high performance vehicles which give petrol cars a run for their money but they do cost over $150,000 in Australia. The Model 3 is intended to cost around US$30,000 which is comparable to family-oriented cars. This model has had 400,000 pre-orders before it went into production, an amazing level of consumer confidence. Tesla has also showcased the Roadster 2 an incredible piece of engineering rumoured to cost around $250,000. It can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 1.9 seconds, faster than anything else on this planet! In the future renewable electricity generation really will bring power to the people. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 December 2017
Still waters:
David Faulks, from the Underwater Research Group (URG), gives us the lowdown on underwater photography. David is in his third year of being an URG member. His personal view of his photographic work is that what he shows people is from camera to audience with minimal post processing. He might take 300 shots and publish five because they are the ones that truly reflect what he actually saw underwater. In this way he brings truth and fact to the discovery.  Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 28 November 2017
2017 Phillip Island restoration:Nicholas Carlile, Principal Scientist in the Conservation Science Team in the Science Division at the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, reports on moves afoot to restore Phillip Island as a sanctuary for seabirds. Phillip Island is just 6km from Norfolk Island which was set up as the food bowl for Sydney Harbour in its settlement. Phillip Island was seen as a great place to keep pigs and goats needed as food on Norfolk and also became a place for rabbits. The goats and pigs had free reign right until the 1850s so the place got stripped of vegetation. The island is made mostly of volcanic tuff, not the strongest of rock (more like compressed dust) and which is easily eroded. Phillip Island is federally managed and the Australian Parks Service has been trying to restore the island but is not keeping up with African olive, an introduced plant with fruits that birds really love. However, slowly the eroded and bare slopes are being cloaked in green. While this is predominantly with introduced olive, the soil is held together to facilitate the establishment seabird colonies and an influx of ocean-nutrients to the poor soils here. For seabirds, there are very few islands that are as spectacular as Phillip Island. It is home to the second only known population of New Zealand White-necked petrels and similar of Providence petrels and a massive population of Black-wing petrels. It is also home to the elusive and almost unknown Kermadec petrel, an endangered species in NSW with only the size of its eggs is known. The new research into seabirds involves 120 loggers being attached to birds’ legs. This presents a great opportunity to collect the information needed to manage an endangered species. Already it has shown that Kermadec petrels are successfully breeding in almost every month of the year, meaning they must have access to an offshore source of food that no other seabird species has found. Phillip Island then, is an ideal place for seabird research. Although there are no places to land, apart from rocks, it is only half an hour by boat from Norfolk so is quite accessible for researchers. Click here for story and soundfile.
How dangerous are sharks?:There are over 300 species of shark in our waters and only two or three are considered as a potential threat to humans. The main shark species considered dangerous to humans are the bull shark, the tiger shark and the great white shark even though they are shy and elusive themselves. They do, however, make great headlines when they interact with humans. Click here and here for stories and soundfiles. Put in perspective: the chances of a pedestrian when crossing a road, suffering severe trauma from a motor vehicle are far greater.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 21 November 2017 
king Sense of Smell: Associate Professor Clare Macarthur, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, reports on research that shows how wallabies exploit eucalypt plant behaviour intended to discourage foraging. Plants have ways to reduce the amount they are eaten by their herbivore enemies, both insects and mammals. In Australian forests, eucalypts release odours when they are being munched, essentially a cry for help. However, herbivores, such as wallabies exploit the odours emitted, using them to find the plants rather than foraging randomly. Wallabies use an incredible sense of smell (wallaby noses are actually more sensitive than gas chromatography) to find plants even in the dynamics of forests with wind swirling and smells wafting around.  Eucalypts, it seems, can be smelt at greater distances than they can be seen.
Most of the mathematical models used to look at foraging completely ignored the fact that animals even have perceptual senses....let alone that sight may not be the most important or refined sense. In addition, because humans are so sight-oriented it is hard to even imagine a landscape from the dimension of smell but for wallabies odour seems to be the key. Click here
 for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 14 November 2017
The changing tide for shorebirds: Chris Hassell, long term researcher with the Global Flyway Network (GFN), looks at the current state of play for intertidal mudflats, from Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia to Bohai Bay in China and the now defunct Saemangeum in South Korea. The GFN continues longitudinal research in north-western Bohai Bay in China with hundreds of thousands of birds still flowing through that area on their northward migration to their breeding areas in the Arctic. There is now a Memorandum of Understanding that has been signed between local government, the Paulson Institute and World Wildlife Fund China to establish a nature reserve there. Signed in July, this will hopefully lead to some on-ground action and management of the intertidal mudflats. The actual destruction of the mudflats has stopped in the immediate study area and the claimed areas are being developed. If a nature reserve is established on site it would be very different from reserves in Australia. It would have fisherman on it, fishing nets and a commercial salt pond behind. There may well be industry to the left and right but it would not be concrete and that is the scale GFN is working at because the pressures in the Yellow Sea coastline are constant. In South Korea the Saemangeum mudflats closed down with a 33km seawall enclosing two river mouths and a huge estuary that was extremely important to many species of birds, especially Great knots. Saemangeum has not been developed 11 years later. There are no birds and many hundreds of fishermen lost their livelihoods. The survival consequence for displaced birds is not just immediate but from diminished survival rates in following years. Dr Danny Rogers is currently analysing data from the 14 year count by the GFN of coastal bird species that rely on intertidal mudflats. The final report, due out at the end of the year, will document the state of bird species in the north-west Australian sites of Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach. Then we will have a clearer picture of the changing tide for shorebirds. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 7 November 2017
Managing water in agriculture:  Our water management motto needs to be .... Slow and conservative Water is appallingly managed almost everywhere in the world, with Australia no exception - but how do you do it right? The general behaviour of water management in nature, our model of sustainability is to slow water down, spread it out, sink rain into the soil and give it a complex pathway. Nick Radford discusses effective strategies that apply to humid landscapes, where annual rainfall exceeds evaporation. Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 31 October 2017
Deep Space: John Turnbull, President of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG), looks at more of the marvels of our underwater world. It is a misconception that temperate reefs are any less spectacular than tropical ones, especially if you carry a light. The first 10-15m has big kelp underwater forests, then the next 15-20m has colourful sponge habitat. In Sydney Harbour there is less to see past 40m, apart from wrecks. One steam-driven wreck between North and South Head has its old boiler and a big flywheel. At deep levels fish have very big eyes which let them capture more light. They are often red-coloured which effectively makes them invisible as red light does not penetrate as deep down as other colours. Some fish at those depths make their own light using bioluminescence. The most powerful and disruptive weather is a deep swell. The longer a wave is the deeper it goes underwater. A 2m high wave of short peak length is not noticed 5-6m below the surface whereas 2m swell with a long period between peaks (like 12-15 seconds) creates a lot of surge on the bottom like a washing machine. There is quite a lot of sound underwater. Tropical reefs have a background hum, with clicks, scratches, snaps, pops and bubbles. Temperate waters get deeper and booming sounds such as ships and outboard motors and memorably humpback whales singing. According to John most sharks are not dangerous and he has never felt threatened by one. He also enjoys cuttlefish which, with the related octopus, are among the most intelligent invertebrates on the planet. Cuttlefish have an amazing ability to change colour and texture. The giant cuttlefish, endemic to Australia, are very effective stealth hunters. A giant cuttlefish has two tentacles that shoot out, like harpoons, to catch its prey. It will investigate divers, and might even put on a display of coloured stripes running down its body, stripes that change from white to yellow to red to brown in a flash. Such a rippling flow of neon flashing display is one of the many astonishing features of deep space, except this deep space is all under water. Click here for story and soundfile

 A Question of Balance Tuesday 24 October 2017 
Broome Bird Observatory: Australia's premier sea perch Chris Hassell, committee member for the Broome Bird Observatory, explains why it is an important part of the Broome coast. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the bird observatory. It was set up with funds from donations and the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union (RAOU, which became Birds Australia and more recently Birdlife Australia) after the shire president allowed them to get their block of land. Broome Bird Observatory is THE best place in Australia to see shorebirds and generates its own money through tours, accommodation and hosting research groups, like the Australasian Waders Study Group. The site has had solar power from January 1996 and it still has the original panels (with additions) and a new inverter. The solar panels were designed to pivot and follow the sun each day from east to west, making them more efficient. The site is now owned by Parks and Wildlife and leased at a peppercorn rate. The observatory has a variety of habitats which is why it is so good for birds. There are the Roebuck Bay mudflats with its terns, egrets, herons and other shorebirds. The bay has some of the biggest tides in the world, with a nine metre tidal range. The oyster coloured mud has a satin-like sheen. Most of it is fine silt absolutely brimming with benthos. Roebuck Bay was once the estuary for the mighty Fitzroy River reflected in fossilised dinosaur footprints that emerge from the mud flats and disappear into the border of red Pindan cliffs. The great diversity of benthic life in the mudflats attracts many thousands of local birds and migratory shorebirds from the Arctic and also draws scientists (knicknamed Mudbashers) who focus on identifying the creatures in the mud and their complex relationships. Roebuck Bay is a key nonbreeding season location for shorebirds who travel the global flyway that stretches north to the Yellow Sea and the Arctic.Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 3 October 2017
Rodent eradication on Lord Howe Island:
Nicholas Carlile, from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, charts how rodents will finally be removed from the Australia’s offshore Lord Howe Island. About 500km off Port Macquarie in the Tasman Sea and discovered by James Cook, the first people on the island were in May 1788, filling their ships with turtles and birds and fresh water on their way to Norfolk Island. The first rodents to arrive were house mice. The ship (black rat) rat arrived through the careening of the Mikabo, that hit rocks and its stores from Sydney were offloaded - including black rats. The rats flourished and destroyed the native Lord Howe phasmid and nine species of bush birds. Some seabirds only successfully breed now on the outer islands where there were no rats. Agricultural attempts to produce commercial crops have been decimated by rats and mice. In 2001-2002 the NSW National Parks and Wildlife (now Heritage) undertook developing an effective plan for rodent eradication of rodents. These were the only remaining feral pests left after removal of goats, pigs and cats. The eradication could not disrupt tourism or impact humans or human health and so it is based on the method pioneered by New Zealanders almost 30 years earlier and had eradicated rodents from more than 300 islands. The program will start on the 1st June 2018 and by the 22nd there should be no surviving rodents. One hundred tons of rubbish haave already been removed from the island and the ground baiting and hand baiting will cover all settlement areas, including every shed, roof cavity and sub-floor. The baiting is deliberately planned for winter when food resources are quite poor. It will take two years of monitoring to prove the $9 million eradication a success.
This huge task that has taken many years of planning and testing but it is how rodents will be finally eradicated from Lord Howe Island. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 19 September 2017
What price power and why? Who determines the cost to the community of power? What are the reasons for the major costs? How often are these assessed? Who are the regulators? Who regulates the regulators? What is their expertise? What is 'spot pricing' of our electricity on the eastern grid? Why does it operate more like the stock exchange than an integral part of an essential service heavily subsidised by Australian taxpayers?  Questions like these and MORE for all our political parties that need answers and not finger pointing.
Practical power policies not politics please ....

perhaps please explain ... What price power and why?  Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 September 2017 
URG gear and exploration advances from 1960s forward:
Gearing up for exploration with the URG: Colin Piper first learnt to dive with the URG in 1966. When he first joined the URG, diving gear was quite basic: a wetsuit (not necessarily warm and well fitting) fins, a mask, a snorkel, a knife, a lead belt, an air tank and a regulator. Over time, equipment embraced the open-circuit SCUBA design devised in 1943 by Jacques Cousteau and Émile Gagnan that featured a twin hose set-up. In Australia Ted Eldred developed a single hose regulator, the Porpoise (released in 1952) and single hose gear is used by 99% of divers today. Colin has been involved with the URG in several research projects. These include Commonwealth funded baseline studies of the benthic and fish life in the North Harbour Aquatic Reserve and a project with marine archaeologists involved diving in the south-west arm of Port Hacking looking for 30,000 year old Aboriginal rock shelves. Click here for soundfile and story.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 September 2017
Another cryptic Australian critter: the bandicoot: Professor Peter Banks, from Sydney University, uncovers the world of another unique Australian animal - the bandicoot. Bandicoots are classified by ecologists as critical weight range mammals (between 35g and 5.5kg) which have really suffered since Europeans arrived in Australia, the rabbit-sized bandicoots suffering the worst from fox predation. Bandicoots are unusual marsupials being between carnivorous marsupials (same type of teeth) and macropod marsupials (macropod fused toes). They also have the shortest gestation period of any mammal, with 12.5days from conception to birth. They can breed twice a year, the very immature babies suckling at a nipple for a number of months before emerging from the pouch and starting to become independent. Female long-nose bandicoots have four nipples but usually have two or three babies. Bandicoots have unusual social interactions. Although polygamous, male bandicoots tend to hang out together in different locations from the females, even during the breeding season. Bandicoots rest and nest in dense vegetation during the day but like open areas for night foraging, especially recently burnt areas (and lawns!). Introduced predators like foxes and cats are a problem, particularly since they also target burnt areas. Fox baiting does improve bandicoot numbers. Juvenile bandicoots that do survive will generally live for less than a year, some lasting up to three. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Frog Wrangler Time: Dr Arthur White answers several common questions about Australian frogs: Do they have teeth? Why do they have such large bulgy eyes? How long do they live? Do pet frogs need a companion? What can a pet frog be trained to do? 
 here and here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 August 2017
Ground cover:  Nick Radford
 Director of Ecoliving Design, digs into regenerative agriculture.Agriculture is defined here as deliberate growing of human food. The definition covers any sized growing space, including farms, market gardens, community gardens, home gardens and urban terraces. In many poor areas of the world, farms are set up as export businesses by foreigners, with little financial or nutritional benefit to local people. 

Organic matter content of soil is a crucial measure of fertility and a soil that drops to 2-3% organic matter is no longer viable for agriculture. Regenerative refers to an increase in soil organic matter. This can only be achieved by increasing vegetation cover on site.
Nick Radford uses the hammock as a metaphor for two concepts in regenerative agriculture. The first is a test - what sort of agriculture would you like to spend time lying around in? The environment that people are attracted to is likely to have a diversity of trees, shrubs, ground covers, light levels and birds and insects. This also represents a functional, stable ecosystem. Also many of these elements can often be cropped. The second concept is to learn specific lessons and techniques that can be applied to our constructed, manipulated edible ecosystem. Productivity can be increased by reducing an input, adding a crop niche, consciously arranging a mutually beneficial relationship 

If you live in an urban area and want to make a start, try a kitchen garden of a few square metres. Fill it with closely spaced greens and herbs in a thick mulch. Much of the crop, like lettuce, spinach, garlic chives, capsicum, cherry tomato is plucked daily rather than harvested annually. Vertical space can be exploited by using trellis at the edges supporting beans, tomato, peas, cucumber. Perennial greens (spinach, Sorrel) can be grown around shady paths. Warrigal greens will grow in tough conditions in deep woodchip mulch.   Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 22 August 2017
Scent Packing: behavioural methods to reduce impacts of invasive species on native fauna: 
Peter Banks, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, looks at how manipulating animal behaviour can reduce the impacts of invasive species. The aim of the work is to develop humane, ecologically-based solutions for the impact of invasive species. He mostly works with introduced vertebrates (rats, foxes and cats in Australia and hedgehogs, stoats and brush-tailed possums in New Zealand) which have had a major impact on native vertebrate fauna. The research focus is on trying to use behavioural methods to outwit invasive species and reduce their impacts on native fauna. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 15 August 2017 
Diving suits: growing up with the URG: Denise Lawler
Denise Lawler, current Secretary and past President of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG), remembers growing up with URG and explains how diving has eventually become a part of her life. Denise was born in 1963 and can still remember the smells associated with her father’s (Clarrie Lawler) diving; the fishy smell, the smell of the neoprene diving gear that was washed out afterwards. While Denise didn’t start diving until she was 40, it has become an important part of her life. Compared with diving in the tropics or in lakes. Sydney diving is more challenging in terms of visibility out at sea and there is swell and chop and colder water, factors that add a level of anxiety to the dive. Denise is more interested in pretty fish and especially likes animals with personality like the giant cuttlefish and the eastern blue groper that hangs around divers. She has become a keen underwater photographer. While a late starter, it seems that, for Denise Lawler, diving suits. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 8 August 2017
A Bird’s-eye View: Professor Darryl Jones from Griffith University, explains a new survey into urban ibis in Brisbane, one with some surprising results. Ibis have a very bad reputation in Brisbane and Sydney for being bin pickers and scavengers. The ibis appear to have lost any fear of humans in these places, a cause of concern for Southbank’s restaurant and cafĂ© owners. Work by Honours researcher, Indya Wilson sheds a light on what is really happening. Indya spent a whole year surreptitiously watching and recording interactions between people and ibis in three locations around central Brisbane. She found an array of interactions. Some people intentionally feed the ibis, some ignore ibis that approach closely and some people get agitated if an ibis is within 100 metres! Most interactions were initiated by humans who actively chose to interact with the birds as close as possible. This behaviour is very different from their scavenging reputation The ibis have learnt to adapt to life in the cities showing they are smart, can learn quickly and have lost their fear of humans. Click 
here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 1 August 2017 
New Power Base: Australia is in the process of a complete energy market transformation and people are thinking big to solve problems. It seems we are well on the way to forming a new power base in this country. A whole suite of technology is emerging to support that shift and economics is supporting that transformation too. 
Batteries have evolved enormously in the last few years, having changed their chemistry. Lithium battery will be the predominate battery for the next decade and it is predicted they will drop by 40% from their present price of $10-12,000. There are huge investments in building factories that make lithium batteries. Elon Musk from Tesla Motors enormous factory builds lithium batteries for their cars and for the home energy storage market.
Another successful home battery, the flow battery, was invented at the University of NSW. While currently more expensive than lithium batteries ($15,000 installed) they have a very long service life of over 20 years.
Solar panels are also playing a part. Initially, solar panels cost $12 per watt but cost is now down to 80 cents. This reflects the huge scale of production and rates of installation, especially in China. The Tesla Motor Corporation has reache an agreement with South Australia to build the world’s largest storage battery and Elon Musk has indicated that either it will be built in 100 days or it will be free. The battery will supply 100 megawatts (more than double the present size) and have storage of 136 megawatt hours. A Brisbane company, the Lyon Group, already has proposals to build even bigger batteries in South Australia.. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 25 July 2017
How forests influence the environment If our society understood the role of trees we would view the destruction of forests as an act of sabotage against ourselves and life on Earth. Our political behaviour would be very different. Plants contribute about half of the Oxygen in the air. Without forests, the Oxygen breathing life on earth (including humans) would perish. The ozone layer would be so thin that temperatures on Earth would be roasting by day and freezing by night. Trees pull Carbon out of the air and store it in their bodies, acting as a Carbon sink that prevents catastrophic global warming. Forests are largely responsible for creating the fertility on Earth. The topsoil contains most of the fertility and has both excellent drainage and water retention properties. A teaspoon of forest soil contains billions of microbiological life forms. It takes a forest about 100 years to create 1mm of topsoil. Forests add rainfall into the ecosystem and conserve it. Water evaporates from the ocean and moves over land as humid air. Above forests float a complex cloud of tiny, living particles such as pollen and micro organisms. These particles act as nuclei over which humid air condenses, forming rain drops. So take away the forests and you get drought. Condensation of humid, misty air also occurs on forest leaves and drips to the ground. On seaward facing ridge tops the water dripping off the forest canopy can be several times more than recorded rainfall, which is often also above the local average. Forests break up rainfall, slow it down and absorb it into soil. Thus, forested rivers flow constantly despite erratic rainfall because water is flowing through the soil months or years after it fell as rain. Trees also transpire water into the air which forms rain clouds. If you have a lot of forest, you have good biodiversity. If you have well forested catchments, stream banks and wetlands then you have viable waterways. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 18 July 2017
Diving into Science Part 2: The early years 1950s and 1960s:
Clarrie Lawler, past President of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG), looks back at the early days of the group. The URG was begun in the early 1950s by Howard Couch, a keen sailor and first President. There is an underwater plaque at Shiprock in Port Hacking as a memorial to him, placed there by his URG colleagues.
Clarrie Lawler admits he quite accidentally ended up as an enthusiastic URG member after trying out flippers and goggles in a small pool at Coogee. At that stage URG were making their own diving equipment since the only available were very expensive gear from the USA and Europe. They made their own respirator pieces so people could breathe from a tank of compressed air. By the early 1960s URG had the gear to dive further. Scuba is an excellent way to look at the world in the ocean as divers can slowly glide down to the sea bed and be surrounded by often unknown creatures.The URG were often guided by advice from Elizabeth Pope at the Australian Museum where she curated undersea animals. Clarrie and colleague URG diver, Walt Deas, published Beneath Australian Seas illustrated with Walt’s outstanding marine photography. Photography has now largely replaced taking samples of marine life. Clarrie has seen some incredible sights including an unusual Sea Urchin which was seemingly covered with white flowers. Elizabeth Pope identified it as a well disguised, deadly venomous species. It was so unusual that a photo of the Sea Urchin featured in the Sydney Morning Herald the next day.
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 11 July 2017
Ground Breaking News: The big news in the frog world is that five more species of frog have been found and described in Australia, one on the east coast of NSW in areas that are highly populated. The species has been named Mahony’s toadlet in honour of Professor Michael Mahony from the University of Newcastle. It is a species of red-groined toadlets. They are only 20mm long and have bright orange or red coloured slashes in the concealed parts of their groins and legs. Mahony’s toadlet has a wonderful pattern of black and white spots on its belly. The first one of the new species was found was in 2007 by Simon Clulow in deep, vast sand beds north of Newcastle. The east coast of Australia was subject to massive changes in sea levels over the last half a million years. In some places massive amounts of sand had been deposited by the ocean and when the water levels went down what was left behind were towering dunes such as those at Stockton near Newcastle. Deep within these is where Mahony's Toadlet lives. They lay their eggs where the water seeps out of the bottom of the sand mass. The eggs are encapsulated and the tadpoles exist in these tiny little puddles. The toadlets dig out of the sand when they need to find food. Unfortunately urbanisation causes changes in groundwater and surface water flow and paving creates dry areas and sends water in different directions. Mahony’s toadlet was instantly enlisted as an endangered species as its habitat is under threat. 
here for story and soundfile.
The scourge of the sea: plastics: Plastics are a part of our everyday lives. From the milk in our coffee in the morning to the cap on the tube of toothpaste used to clean our teeth we use vast quantities of materials made of hard plastic. Most of the plastics we use end up in our oceans, where they become a deadly menace to sea birds. There is not a square kilometre of ocean that does not have plastic and, as they break up, they bleach white, resembling the kinds of food that sea birds eat. This is not a new finding. A decade ago Nicholas Carlile described cases even on remote locations far from civilisation. Midway Island, 3,000 kilometres from any other land mass was knee-deep in plastic and even Heard Island in the sub Atlantic had plastic. These examples reported in the media were seen as a warning wake up call but it seems from current reports of island plastic pollution in 2017, that the alarm bells snooze button was activated rather than behavioural change. From the archives, Nicholas reports what could indeed be mistaken for the present day situation. Click 
here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 4 July 2017
Stock Exchange: Professor Graeme Martin, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, looks at the issues associated with the global livestock industry. In 2006, the United Nations FAO published a document called Livestock’s Long Shadow about the environmental issues associated with ruminant livestock. It was a serious wake-up call reminding us that ruminants in particular produce 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions (in carbon dioxide equivalents). Ruminants are also responsible for large amounts of erosion, sedimentation of waterways, pesticide and antibiotic use, as well nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. However, there will be 50% more people on the planet by 2050, accompanied by increasing urbanisation of agricultural land and increasing demand for animal protein as the middle class expands. Can ruminant industries help us feed the world without destroying the planet?  Professor Graeme Martin looks at the seven major issues we need to deal with that are associated with the global livestock industry and discusses why he is optimistic about the future. Such a stock exchange would be good for the planet. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 27 June 2017
Diving into Science Part 1: Understatement John Turnbull, President of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG), outlines how underwater research has revealed the incredible nature found in Sydney Harbour. Sydney has an incredibly diverse and very colourful marine community on its doorstep. There is more than twice the number of fish species in Sydney Harbour than the entire coastline of the United Kingdom. There is an amazing array of underwater gardens, particularly sponge gardens. URG started in the 1950s before SCUBA gear could be bought in Sydney. Many of the early URG members were engineers or draftsmen so they made their own. There was very little exploration beyond how far you could dive down with a snorkel so a whole new world opened up as soon as they could make reliable underwater breathing gear. Nowadays most people who join URG are interested in the citizen science projects like marine debris, weedy sea dragons and the reef life survey. While much citizen science is done with SCUBA more and more people can get involved on land, like with clean ups, and even from their desktops. They can click on photos and help identify what they see, being an underwater citizen scientist without getting wet! A lot of URG's work does involve diving and Sydney has good diving all year round. While experienced divers are well balanced underwater, newcomers have to go into these situations with an open mind and a sense of adventure. It can be cold, it is wet and it can be hard to see if visibility is down. Newcomers should join a club or dive shop and dive with people who are experienced and know the area so you can dive in the best place given the conditions. It is very important to create as many opportunities as possible for people to experience and interact with nature, a long way from their passive lifestyles in their concrete jungle. You will see a totally different world without leaving the ocean backyard of your own city. We have to remember that nature is both on land and under water.. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 20 June 2017
A Bad Debt: Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, talks about what sustainability really means, referring to resource accounting and human hunter gatherer history. Nick Radford has formally studied architecture, horticulture, environmental science, organic farming and permaculture. He practices permaculture, which is a multi disciplinary sustainable design approach and has lived in the Bellinger valley for over twenty years, putting theory into practice. Nick argues that humans were hunter gatherers until relatively recently – some 12,000 years ago in Jordan/ Syria and 3,000 - 4,000 years ago in Britain. Given that humans evolved a few million years ago, then biologically and instinctively we are fundamentally hunter gatherers. Hunter gatherers evolved in times of almost chronic scarcity. They are biologically driven to consume foods high in salts, sugars, fats, protein and calories, and any glut of such foods was short lived. Modern humans have not adjusted to the relatively recent abundance of food, and tend to over consume. Over consumption is not limited to food, the behaviour applies to all resources. The result is a steady, unsustainable depletion of soil, water flow and quality, forest cover, biodiversity, fisheries and increased pollution. Sustainability can be considered an accounting exercise where there is no net loss of resources over the lifetime of a system. As economic activity doesn’t properly account for environmental cost, then economic activity more or less equals environmental degradation and economic debt roughly equals environmental debt. The logical conclusion is extinction, demonstrated many times by past experience such as on Easter Island. There is no law of nature that says humans must live on earth, but plenty that say we will be evicted if we don’t behave. Click here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 13 June 2017
Our Future is Now:The community is not really well informed about sustainability and the issue of climate change illustrates the problem. Professor Graham Pyke, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, has worked for years with Professor Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University and created the website Sustainability Central. Professor Pyke has just published online a paper that gets to the nub of this concept. Sustainability is doing things today in such a way that future generations can continue doing them as well as we are doing them now. The health of the planet affects the health of all of us so it is beneficial to promote sustainability. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 June 2017
Ghost nets: sprawling killers strangling the oceans:
 Ben Pearson, Senior Campaign Manager with World Animal Protection, brings us the latest on the threat to marine animals from ghost gear. Apart from plastic and micro plastics a big part of the problem is ghost gear in the form of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing nets from fishing boats. These are pouring into the world’s oceans at the rate of some 640,000 tons a year. They are a critical threat to marine life as they can entangle animals and drown them. The nets are immense, being kilometres long and as they are made of nylon plastic they can last for hundreds of years. The Gulf of Carpentaria is a hotspot for these nets which are coming from the industrial fishing organisations in Asia. World Animal Protection set up a global ghost gear initiative in 2015 bringing together all the stakeholders such as government, industry, academia and NGOs. World Animal Protection is trying to introduce practical programs through a Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) that helps prevent ghost gear from entering the oceans in the first place and to remove it.  They are working with the Northern Prawn Fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria to make sure they don’t contribute to ghost gear. Indigenous rangers remove ghost gear from beaches and rescue turtles caught in them. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 30 May 2017
Wildlife conservation: one of many strands of sustainability: Nancy Pallin, a long time contributor to A Question of Balance on bats, discusses her history with wildlife conservation, an attachment that has lasted many years. Nowadays the very name and nature of careers evolve rapidly in response to technological and economic pressures. Especially for younger Australians, many careers and employment seem to lack security or to endure. However there have always been less dramatic changes and additions of different disciplines and work effort. The very idea of environmental consultant or being an ecologist for example are important additions that began to blossom in the 1960s and 70s fostered by the rise of community awareness of the roles and values of ecology and environmental conservation. How people became involved in these virtually unknown or understood fields has many paths and certainly no security or promise of lasting existence. However, remarkable individuals and community groups contributed to the blossoming of these disciplines although, even today, persuading governments and many in the community of the central roles of these activities in achieving sustainable and satisfying human communities remains daunting. Right place right time was often the key factor to explain how some groups became involved in many such activities … and definitely not job security or stability Nancy Pallin describes a series of turning points in her own life that opened up new or different conservation work and areas for her. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 23 May 2017
Getting it right: the LED lighting revolution: Sometimes we get it right: the outstanding technology, the support of the community and organisations and the government developing essential, effective regulations. Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability professional looks at the technology of lighting and how it can be used to achieve energy efficiency in domestic and commercial situations. Lighting technology has been revolutionised in the last few years as LED lighting has become available. LED lights last a very long time in service. People can choose a warm light, an orangey light or a harsher cool, white light for places like kitchens and factories. There is virtually an LED light for any application at home or at work. Dr Manor was involved in developing for a former Feneral government,the regulation known as the Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS). MEPS is applied to items such as light bulb, fridges and electric appliances and each year the threshold for lumens (units of light output for each watt of electricity) goes up. Incandescent bulbs are extremely inefficient as 95% of the electricity is converted to heat and only 5% is converted to light. The lumen threshold is way above that so those are now illegal to sell. There is big business supplying LED lighting to the commercial sector, the industrial sector and the domestic sector with refittings happening every single day. It might cost a factory $35,000 to upgrade to LED but that amount is paid back in 4-5 months, a return on investment of over 200%. Many factories and warehouses use high intensity discharge lighting which falls in between incandescent and LEDs. A 460 watt high bay light fixture can be replaced by an 80 watt LED fixture, a substantial saving. Unfortunately the present federal government is wedded to old technology particularly in electricity generation. They are not pro-active in sustainability or energy efficiency at all so it is up to individuals and individual businesses to implement these changes. Changing to LEDs is a win/win as it saves on pollution, saves on resources and saves money. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 16 May 2017
Globalising Chytrid: with unexpected consequences: Dr Arthur White, President of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS), looks at what is happening with Chytrid, a disease that has claimed six species of Australian frog with another 40 at risk. In spite of an Australian team discovering why the organism became deadly to our frogs in recent decades, we have been slow to set up recovery or breeding programs for species at particular risk.
A form of Chytrid has been in Australia for at least 10,000 years. The chytrid organism is a relatively common fungus that occurs in soil but is normally benign.
People carry Chytrid but with minimal effects. Chytrid is now a highly infectious disease that only affects amphibians and is caused by a single cell fungus which penetrates the skin of frogs and tadpoles, eventually killing them. It can be spread by anything that is wet, like mud on cars or wet hands. Humans seem to be the main vector for the spreading of Chytrid between frog populations. As a result of globalisation and rapid international travel, Chytrid became a worldwide problem from the1970s.
How people handle frogs and move through wetlands has changed dramatically as a result of Chitrid and there are sterilisation processes for gear and equipment used in handling frogs.
Geneticists are looking at ways to detect the presence of Chytrid on people. In the future it may well be that Chytrid control mechanisms will be coupled with human hygiene procedures that are adopted at airports and shipping lines.
Some Australian ground frogs are resistant to Chytrid and cane toads carry it but don’t die from it. Genetic research is being done to see how the toad’s immune response prevents Chytrid from spreading throughout its body and if there is a way of increasing resistance of native frogs. Frogs in the wild need a mechanism to protect themselves and the best way is to be genetically resistant.  Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 2 May 2017
Food Regulation:
 Many kinds of animals regulate their nutrient intake and the macro nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) are really strong drivers of this foraging behaviour. Animals prefer different ratios of macro nutrients, such ratios varying between species. Sean Cougan, has just completed his PhD thesis from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. Sean came from Canada where he was involved in studying what grizzly bears eat and its seasonality. His Australian studies focused on our White Ibis, which is a native species that moved into the cities inquite recent decades and is doing really well. Human food is a key part of why they are here so Sean wanted to see what they ate. Here he explains how bears and the ibis regulate their intake of macro nutrients. Click 
here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 18 April 2017
Success and wrap up for Taren Point eradication program:  Dr Arthur White, president of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS), explains the success of a cane toad eradication program in Sydney’s south. This has been an important and long running project involving various levels of government, universities, volunteer groups and many Sutherland Shire community members. Its success has been the result of continued cooperative involvement that has drawn upon a range of innovative approaches but as time and again, program leaders identify the presence and support of so many members of the community being prepared to put in their time and effort, as being the most important essential ingredients for success.  

On A Question of Balance, the project has been followed through over the years, including a 30 minute TV documentary that can be downloaded from YouTube. Today’s interview is a brief summary and links to other stories and interviews on AQOB from earlier years. Click here for stories and soundfiles.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 11 April 2017
Home Truths: Dr John Martin, wildlife ecologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, outlines a citizen science project called Hollows as Homes. The loss of hollow-bearing trees has been listed nationally as a threatening process for a range of biodiversity. Over 300 native species rely on tree hollows for breeding, roosting or protection.The project is encouraging people across Australia to report and there is liaison with Landcare, catchment management, natural resource management, local service groups, bush regenerators and councils. In the northern hemisphere there are primary hollow excavators (woodpeckers) who are quick at creating small hollows. In Australia, the natural process is slower and hollows can take decades to form. Supplementary habitat is also provided by plywood nest boxes. Different hollows suit differnt animals ranging across micro bats, some owls smaller species like gliders and red-rump parrots as well as sulphur-crested cockatoos and brush-tailed possums. Reptiles and frogs use hollows. Even swamp wallabies will shelter in hollows at the base of large trees. The website (www.hollowsashomes.com) also works as an app on your phone. People can register and then report tree hollows or nest boxes and record their wildlife sightings and photos. Here is a great citizen science project aiming to capture what is really happening in the environment. It is well place to reveal some home truths for many species. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 4 April 2017 Power politics: when the lights went off in South Australia: what caused the Black System in South Australia? When South Australia had its black system, some people blamed the weather. Comments from senior politicians and the ABC blamed renewable energy. From the facts it is clear that the weather was mostly responsible but that doesn’t stop people playing power politics. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance, Tuesday 28 March 2017
More citizen science opportunities involving large urban and coastal birds
We've been reporting the Sydney based studies of sulphur Crested Cockatoos and White Austalian Ibis, but Ibis have long been in the research focus of Darryl Jones and colleagues in Brisbane and Gold Coast. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Now their attention is broadening to keep tabs on four common birds of prey who  seem to fall foul of fishing activites or just plain do not seem to like being close neighbours with people. Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 21 March 2017
Natural Selection: Dr John Martin, wildlife ecologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, outlines a citizen science project with a focus on the Australian white ibis. The Wingtag project started in 2008 but there had been banding of birds for eight years before that. Wing tags are better than leg bands because they are more visually obvious and it is easier to remember a three digit number and one colour. Sightings can be reported using the same app used so successfully with the Royal Australian Botanic Gardens in Sydney study of Sulphur crested cockatoos (Google wingtag) on an Apple or android phone. Photos can also be included. Different birds have different strategies to get food. Those in Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens get all their food from those small green spaces and don’t move from those sites. Other birds fly 30km to a landfill site because the food resources they provide are so rich. The ibis known as the Farmer’s Friend are more often straw-necked ibis which are well known for eating plague locusts. The Australian white ibis, (which is also an Australian native but was formerly incorrectly thought to be an exotic species, the African sacred ibis) is more known for foraging in the water column more and is associated with wetlands rather than grasslands. It is still recovering from this incorrect labelling as an alien species and therefore competition with our own wildlife. While locals may dislike the boldness of some ibis in parks, they are quite thrilling for our international visitors who can so easily approach and feed these elegant birds in public parks! Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance, Tuesday 14 March 2017
Light Switch: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, outlines some of the ways to achieve energy efficiency. One quick and easy way to save energy in the home is to convert lighting to the latest technology, LED lighting. Also known as solid state lighting, LED is a major advance in illumination. These lights are one of the reasons Australia’s energy use went down four or five years in a row. One advantage of upgrading lighting to LEDs is that they produce less waste heat, meaning less air conditioning power to keep your home comfortable. Saving energy is a win/win solution so it really is time to make a light switch. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 7 March 2017
Right and left footed parrots (Lateralisation of the brain at work again): Associate Professor Culum Brown, from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, outlines his work on lateralisation and feeding habits in native Australian parrots. The research looked at how 26 species (eg. sulphur-crested cockatoos, galahs, some rosellas, budgerigars and cockatiels) responded to a range of tasks and whether closely related species showed similar foot preferences. The first tests related to foot preference. Every species of the large bodied native birds all show strong foot preferences, be it left or right. The smaller bodied parrots, however, show no strong preferences. This shift in lateralisation takes place at a body size of 31 centimetres. These findings are also borne out by what the birds eat. Those that graze on small seeds and blossoms, like lorikeets, show less bias whereas those birds that extract seeds from seed pods and rip things out of trees have strong foot preferences. The strong biases shown seem to be linked to the coordination needed between the beak, the eye and the foot in order to successfully manipulate these tougher food sources. These food sources are therefore a selective force, which explains the strong bias when these birds eat, unlike the grazing birds which do not require such precision and coordination. Among parrots, the large bodies species are strongly lateralised, either being left footed or right footed, thought to be a result of the coordination needed when using beak and foot to feed. Some simple cognitive tasks were designed to effectively test that theory. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 28 February 2017.
 Sulphur Crested Cockatoo Wingtag Survey Sydney: Dr John Martin, wildlife ecologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, outlines a long running citizen science project in Sydney, one that has Sulphur Crested Cockatoos as its focus. In the citizen science program, Cockatoo Wingtag, 120 Sulphur Crested Cockatoos in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney were fitted with yellow wingtags over five years ago. Some birds were also fitted with solar powered GPS. Each tag has a 3 digit number. Members of the community report their sightings, building up a map showing where the birds have been moving and which habitats they choose for foraging. It was anticipated that the birds would move 50-100km but this has not proved to be the case. All groups maintained a radius of approximately 5km with a lot of sub populations with little movement between them. The next step of the program is to use the data to look at social networks and cognitive abilities of these wild populations. Tagging will continue in March and April 2017. Dr Martin has been overwhelmed by the long term positive community engagement. This is a collaborative project with the Australian Museum and University of Sydney. For citizen science appy days are here again. Click 
here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance, Tuesday 21 February 2017
Field Goal: Professor Graeme Martin, Leader of the Future Farm 2050 Project at the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, outlines some of the benefits in running clean, green and ethical livestock. It is located at the Ridgefield Farm near Pingelly WA. It is a 1600 ha working model farm, mixed enterprise operation.
‘Clean' means that the farm reduces its dependency on chemicals, antibiotics and the like; ‘green' reminds us that grazing ruminants have a greenhouse gas footprint to consider; ‘ethical' reminds us that animal welfare is important. Current research into natural resistance and genetic diversity address welfare issues, such as mulesing, drug and chemical use. Future Farm 2050 does not practice mulesing. Indeed, Professor Martin hopefully predicts that within 5 years all Australian farms will be free from mulesing practice. Three to four superstar native plants have been identified which can reduce methane emissions by 20-50%.In addition these supply green winter fodder enabling sheep  to maintain weight, combat worms and reduce mortality. On Future Farm, the star performer, Eremophila produced a greening effect in places where crops couldn’t grow. Such natives attract birds, insects and reptiles enhancing biodiversity. It also enables restoration of landscape, managing salinity and water table levels with improved profits, according to economic analysis of shrub-based systems. An important achievement would be Australia becoming mulesing free. You could say it is a field goal of Future Farm.
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 31 January 2017
Modern times Catch(ment) 22: Jacqui Marlow, committee member of Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment, looks at a unique catchment area in Sydney’s north. Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment was protected by the Askin government in the 1970s with a special Local Environment Plan (LEP) that required 20 hectare blocks with only one house. This means that the catchment has been largely undeveloped but the pressure for increasing amounts of housing is starting to tell on this almost pristine area of 55 km².

The catchment has a variety of ecological environments and many species that are threatened. It is a haven for bushwalkers and mountain bike riders and the lagoon is used by several sailing clubs, model boats, kayakers and fishermen. It is the only coastal lagoon in a peri urban area of a major city in Australia that has an intact catchment. The catchment also cleans the water that goes into Narrabeen Lagoon, making Narrabeen, Collaroy and Warriewood beaches unpolluted.

Developers keep taking the 20 hectare blocks of land to the Land and Environment Court because they want to build things like retirement villages. The court upheld Warringah Council’s objection for a 1,000 unit retirement village citing its impact on the lagoon catchment. That is not always the case. One large retirement village was approved and the site was bulldozed, destroying all the eastern pygmy possums that lived there. The whole area is changing. The rural industries, like the market gardens and egg farms at Oxford Falls, have all gone, as have most of the nurseries. There is a lot of pressure to subdivide the blocks of land..

Currently here is a claim from the Metropolitan Land Council. The land council want to acquire the crown lands and add it to their land to create a new national park administered by Aboriginals. This process has stalled. Meanwhile, the state government cannot do anything to protect the bushland.   until the land claim is processed. The community is still waiting for a new LEP to replace LEP 2000 which will mean that retirement villages and nursing homes could no longer be built.

It seems all is limbo, a modern day catch(ment) 22. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 27 December 2016 
From the archives....
Small Wonders:
 Professor Peter Banks, from the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences, uncovers the facts on a little known marsupial, the antechinus. The antechinus is often confused with a mouse as it is about the same size as a pet mouse. It is, in fact, a carnivorous marsupial and a ferocious killer of insects and small vertebrates like skinks (they have lots of cat-like sharp, pointy teeth) but they are easy to handle when trapped for research. They have an uncommon characteristic for mammals in that the males die after a frenetic mating frenzy for a week Antechinus’s short-lived life and unusual mating habits make this Australian marsupial another small wonder. Click here for story and soundfile.
Do frogs really know when it is going to rain? Short answer is..yep. Slightly longer response is: Dr Arthur White will explain how. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 13 December 2016
Earth's earliest architects: While microbial mats and stromatolites were not necessarily the work of the first forms of life, it was the grouping together of various microorganisms that gave rise to the structures of microbial mats and stromatolites. Complex communities of microorganisms then evolved and adapted to work well together in a low oxygen environment. This assisted the survival of the entire ecosystem, making them one of the most prevalent ecosystems on early Earth. Click here for story and soundfile.
A Jungle in every drop of sea water:Associate Professor Justin Seymour introduces AQOB to the jungles to be found in just a drop of sea water and the complex web of life of Earth's most numerous creatures - single celled bacteria and relatives. These so called simple organisms are descendants of the earliest forms of life on Earth and have continued to thrive in vastly different environments from those that existed when they first evolved. They are outstandingly successful life forms that are invisible to the naked eye and so in general their vast numbers and essential roles for human survival are not recognised. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 December 2016

The mything link: There are many myths about bird feeding in Australia and Professor Darryl Jones soon to be published book, The Birds at my Table, incorporates ones that will stun readers around the world. One of these is that people shouldn’t feed lorikeets seeds because they have a brushed tongue which could be damaged. Darryl has witnessed flocks of lorikeets feeding all day on sorghum seed and records show they eat all kind of seeds, so the myth does not hold up. Like other parrots, lorikeets feed on protein all the time, often in the form of insects and grubs but also as the meat of roadkill or farm animals that have died. Click here for story and soundfile.

Fish experience pain: People’s perception of animal intelligence correlates with their perception that the particular animal will be able to feel pain. Fish are low on the intelligence scale according to people’s perceptions; hence they also believe that they do not feel pain. This, of course, flies in the face of reality, one neurosurgeon likening such beliefs to flat earth adherents. There are many recreational fishers in Australia with substantial political clout. Currently fisheries promote a policy of catch and release for some species. While this may make that species more sustainable, Associate Professor Culum Brown argues that it is unethical. Why catch a living animal, causing stress and pain, only to release it? One man cited catching a cod which had 15 hooks stuck in it as a sign of stupidity, not recognising that hunger and possible starvation are powerful drivers for any wild animal. Part of the problem is that hunting fish is not equated with hunting land based animals. Certainly, the behaviour of people fishing (ie hunting fishes) to the way the prey is played, captured and either released (although injured) or killed, would not be condoned if their prey were a terrestrial wild animal. 
When looked at from an ethical viewpoint, there is a catch about fishing. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 November 2016
The University of Western Australia's Future Farm 2050 Project Part II: Around 50 - 60% of Australia is under the control of farmers, meaning they are effectively responsible for our biodiversity. They need to be part of a new discussion about what we can do to improve their lives and produce food for the rest of us, while saving biodiversity. No matter how we look at it, the future of farming is firmly linked to natural resources. Professor Graeme Martin, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, outlines some of the benefits of the Future Farm 2050 project, especially in terms of biodiversity and soil fertility. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 22 November 2016
Let's face it - most people just don't like bugs. We swot them, spray them and generally slaughter them. They seem to be scary little critters that that dart and scurry. leap, burrow and fly so erratically and unpredictably. But whether we like it or not...from pollinating our flowering plants to cleaning up the dead and dying debris that litters the earth... We need them to survive but they don't need us..... Each and every which way: There are many, many more kinds of bugs than there are vertebrates or even flowering plants. Dr Ken Walker, Senior Curator for Insects at Museum Victoria describes some of the very unusual and complex ways that different bugs carve out a living in their specialised ecological niche. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
In support of the creepy crawlies of Earth: Insects make up 99% of Earth’s biodiversity and are an important part of our environment, one being to decompose organic material. Anyone scraping back compost will see the amphipods (sometimes called land shrimps), springtails and isopods that live there and which break down the leaf litter layer. Dr John Gollan, terrestrial invertebrate ecologist, discusses some of the many positive contributions of these undervalued and multitudinous animals. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 8 November 2016
Sustainability means.....living within our (planet's) means: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, outlines some of the ways to achieve sustainability in a number of different settings. Dr Barry Manor worked as a medical research scientist for a decade and a half before changing his lifestyle, buying 35 acres near the Hawkesbury River where he lives off the grid. Because he is so passionate about sustainability he reinvented himself as a self-educated sustainability consultant. In the early days, he helped a lot of low income families understand why they had high electricity bills. Visiting people in their homes helped to identify the problems and come up with practical solutions. Now he works for a large corporation that has publicly stated sustainability goals. His role is to identify opportunities within their real estate portfolio of 1,600 sites to help them reach those goals in energy efficiency, waste recycling, reduced water use and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of sustainability, it is better to focus on simple things and leave the complexities of climate change to climate scientists. 86% of Australia’s energy comes from burning coal, so using less energy automatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. However, using less electricity does not guarantee monetary savings. Electricity companies are charging more for their fixed network costs to make up for the reduction in usage, preserving their revenue streams. Click 
here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 11 October 2016
Future Farm 2050: 
Professor Graeme Martin, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, is also leader of an innovative project known as Future Farm 2050 – a project that really is important for our future. By 2050 there will be 50% more people in the world and those people need to be fed without destroying the planet. The Future Farm 2050 project was born out of the idea of such a developing issue. The project team convinced the University of Western Australia in 2008 that the university should own a real farm and establish it as the ideal farm for 2050. Click here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 4 October 2016
Lifelines: D
r Brendan Burns, from the University of NSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, takes a closer look at ancient life on Earth, one that produced amazing structures called stromatolites. Stromatolites are basically living rocks, hard as concrete but they are alive, formed very slowly over vast periods of time by perhaps the simplest and most ancient forms of life on Earth: bacteria. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 27 September 2016
Animal Ethics or Critical Thought?:Associate Professor Dominique Blache, from the School of Animal Biology and Institute of Agriculture at the University of Western Australia, gives us the inside information on his animal ethics course. He stresses that most people have a misunderstanding about ethics that makes it uncomfortable for them to talk about ethics in general and animal ethics in particular. Many think their conclusions will be judged, which is not what ethics is about. It is not about telling people what to do. It is more about how to look at a situation before people make their own decision. Ethics is never black and white. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 20 September 2016
Gasmask: Annie Marlow, from the Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG – pronounced ‘I nag’), updates the issues around coal seam gas (CSG) mining in NSW. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 13 September 2016
The very public private lives of male emus: Associate Professor Dominique Blache, from the University of Western Australia, discusses some of the fascinating behaviours of emus. Here the focus is on the seemingly bizarre breeding strategies that contribute to their successful survival  in many of Australia’s harshest environments. Click here for story and soundfile.
Long lived desert frogs: However, emus are not the only native fauna to have mastered life in such extremes. Dr Arthur White describes how our longest living frogs abound in our desert regions. Click on links for frog story soundfiles.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 September 2016
Pollination Bugs: Dr Romina Rader, from the University of New England’s School of Environmental and Rural Science, looks at the importance of many insects in pollination. Apart from the honey bees, there are many insects that are important to pollination, especially for crops. Social bees, solitary bees, some flies, beetles, moths, butterflies and thrips can all be involved in pollination depending on the location in Australia. In the tropics, for example, there can be a large variety of insects involved in pollination whereas cooler regions might have a focus on a particular insect pollinator. The landscape that surrounds the crops also plays a factor. Click here for story and soundfile.
Dr Ken Walker from Museum Victoria reveals some of the reasons why Australian bees are both unique and super primitive. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 30 August 2016
Wagging School: Professor Giorgio Vallortigara, from Trento University’s Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences, explores brain lateralisation and how this manifests itself when dogs wag their tails when faced with positive or negative images (such as their owner or an aggressive dominant dog). Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Biodiversity in an edible landscape: Edible gardens need not be confined to a backyard veggie patch. Many edible plants like red stemmed rhubarb, showy artichokes and the delightfully hardy passionfruit vine are strikingly ornamental and deserving of a front garden display. Mixing a variety of flowers and food plants helps avoid health and insect problems common to monocultural plantings. Many gardens mix and match flowering plants so there are fresh flowers throughout the year. Why not use the same approach with small plantings front and back gardens of fruit and vegetables too. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 23 August 2016
A Myna point: 
Brought to Australia to control insect destruction of crops, these little birds were so successful they were known as the Farmers' friend. Sadly, as the farming needs dwindled over decades, the open field habitats also diminished and their preferred food source - insects - had to be sought elsewhere. Ending up as city dwellers brought them to wider attention and they were unfairly denounced as aggressive and displacing our native species, often being confused with our own bossy Noisy Miner. Click here for story and soundfile.
Myna heaven:
From the archives: clearing the bush has created myna heaven. The distribution of  Indian mynas is closely tied to human populations so they are mainly city dwellers.  They have carved out an urban niche, preferring to nest in roof spaces and scavenging for food on the ground. Much like ibis, Indian mynas do not have a great reputation and there are many myths about their perceived threat. While it is true that, as an introduced species they should be monitored, they are not having a big effect on native wildlife at this stageClick here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 16 August 2016
In fine feather: Emu feathers are very interesting for several reasons. Emus have no flight feathers and basically retain chick feathers through to adulthood. These are fluffy and are great for insulation against high and low temperatures. Emus have adapted incredibly to thermal environments living in the hot dry rangelands to the snowfields. Indeed, emus forage in the arid zone when the temperature can be as high as 45°all other animals seeking shelter and shade. The shape of the emu’s coat is similar to an umbrella over its back. The solar radiation is absorbed by the interlacing black feather tips, far away from the skin. It only takes a couple of metres per second of wind speed for that heat to be transferred to the air. Because emus never stop walking when they forage they are exposing themselves to enough wind speed to basically remove all of the heat generated from the sun. Emus will probably cope with climate change, with their excellent thermal regulatory capacity. They will, however, have other challenges like the changes in habitats and whether their food will be maintained, even though they are omnivorous. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 9 August 2016
Poll Position: Professor Darryl Jones, from Griffith University in Brisbane, outlines an exciting national citizen science project run jointly with Melbourne’s Deakin University: the Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study. People all over the world feed birds and/or give them access to water. Nearly every country in the world has bird groups and conservation groups that can give you guidelines on what to do. Australia is not one of them (yet) because there has been a strong idea that feeding birds is a bad thing to do. A joint project with Melbourne’s Deakin University, the Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study is about to change all that. Anyone can be involved in this new survey. They are particularly looking for people with a birdbath or those that feed birds, no matter where they live in Australia. The aim is to find out on a large scale just what people are doing in order to help birds. The survey lasts for the four weeks of August and is based on which bird species are coming to feed and which species use birdbaths. Working with the peak bird group Birdlife Australia, the project aims to come up with a set of guidelines which will benefit the birds in the best way. The first summary will be produced in September. Click here for story and soundfile.

Songsters and shrill shouters: Dr K-lynn Smith, behavioural biologist from Macquarie University, looks at how birds make sounds and why this is important.  Birds produce a wide range of sounds, from the grunts, grumbles and hoots of turkeys to songbirds which can make two sounds simultaneously and even the infra sounds that female emus produce low to the ground and which can travel great distances. Australian songbirds have evolved very differently to those in the northern hemisphere where there were many terrestrial predators, causing songbirds to evolve as small and cryptic sounding creatures. Australian songbirds, beset more by aerial predators, are larger and could be less cryptic, which may well explain why Australian bird calls sound so different to their northern counterparts. Click here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 2 August 2016
Why are Kimberley corals now bleaching?:
The Kimberley coral reefs are very diverse despite the naturally extreme environment and have only been studied recently. These corals can tolerate conditions that most other corals could not, most coral disliking aerial exposure, especially when linked to heat stress and light stress. Temperatures can be as high as 37-38°C for a short period of time during low tide and most corals start bleaching at 30°C which makes Kimberley corals unique. However, this year there has been widespread bleaching in the Kimberley. One study site had 80-90% bleaching and aerial surveys of large areas of the Kimberley including Montgomery Reef showed 50% bleaching on almost all reefs. It is probably the first time that regional scale bleaching has occurred in the Kimberley. The local Aborigines confirm that they have never seen anything like this and it is not part of any stories told by the elders. Click here for story and soundfile.

Worm farms and Composting: As Spring romps in and plants are stirring from their winter slumbers, it's time to ease ourselves back into the garden. Improving the soil is a good way to start. Worm farms and modern composters are two user friendly sustainable ways to improve the essential garden ingredient - the soil. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 26 July 2016
Another unique Kimberley feature: bleaching resistant corals: Dr Verena Schoepf, from the University of Western Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, explores the causes and effects of coral bleaching in one of the most stress-resistant corals of the world. These are from the Kimberley region where reef water temperatures vary by up to 7 degrees daily and reach up to 37 degrees for short periods of time. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Coral’s unloved cousins: jellyfish. Corals and jellyfish are both related to anemones and all are ancient creatures having evolved well over 500 million years ago. They have much in common, including specialised cells that fire tiny toxic harpoons when brushed against which they use to capture prey. However only jellyfish are free swimming and so have unwanted contact with swimmers. Being soft bodied, slow moving and poor swimmers jellyfish have had to be very adept at defence. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 19 July 2016
Fur or feathers? Professor Shane Maloney, Head of Anatomy, Physiology and Biology at the University of Western Australia, takes a closer look at mammals and birds, in particular their hair, fur or feathers. Only warm blooded species - birds and mammals - have feathers or fur (or hair) as they strive to maintain their body temperatures in spite of the external climate. Fossils from China are showing proto feathers on extinct reptilian animals. Birds, modern day descendants of a branch of dinosaurs, emerged as these proto feathers developed and evolved into flight feathers. Both fur and feathers are primarily made of keratin, a proteinaceous output like fingernails. Both trap a layer of air which provides the coats’ insulating properties. While many mammals have an array of fur or hair types on their body, for example underfur and then stiffer guard hairs, feathers comprise a vast array of shapes, sizes and functions, quite apart from their essential role in flight and insulation. The selective pressure on birds has seen them develop physically robust flight feathers as well as downy ones that essentially insulate. The trapped air also provides a flotation device in waterbirds like ducks. The only mammals that can fly do not have feathers or hair or fur on their wings. Bats are perhaps the ultimate flying machine in terms of specialisation for flight as this has cost them many of the usual functions of hands, arms and legs. They have lost all except one functional hook on their 'hands'. They must hang by their feet under branches since their legs are unable to support their weight against the pull of gravity. However they are superb in flight. Their wings are of specialised skin and are light weight, very flexible and shaped and stretched over their elongated 'finger bones'. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 July 2016
What happened to Emu farming: Professor Graeme Martin, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, brings insights into the problems that beset emu farming. In the late 1980s it was realised emus were well suited to farming. The industry began in Western Australia where it was carefully regulated and required a state government licence to ensure standards were maintained . Soon emu farming thrived. Its very success was its downfall with players from other states and countries getting involved. Soon an unregulated market developed where the focus was on the lucrative selling chicks and eggs among producers rather than raising and killing emus to produce products. As markets disappeared the success of emu farming and was killed off. Click here for story and soundfile.  
The valuable but undervalued mangrove: Mangroves have great benefits for our environment but are an acquired taste. Indeed those who have spent enough time in them are often highly fascinated by these trees and forests. Mangrove forests are important habitats for aquatic creatures and they also are very efficient in locking carbon sequestered from the atmosphere. Important here are the sedimentary layers under the trees that are built from the mangrove leaf litter. These sedimentary layers lock in vast amounts of carbon which cannot be easily released into the atmosphere unless the layers are disturbed. As a result there is a net gain for carbon capture from the atmosphere by mangrove forests that are left undisturbed. Click 
here and here for story and soundfile
Decisions, decisions: Dr Arthur White discusses findings that show females of most Australian frog species are very discriminating about where they lay their eggs. While males might congregate around a potential breeding site and begin calling, the arrival of a female does not guarantee that breeding would take place. It is the female who evaluates the site and if it is not up to her expectations, she will relocate to a preferred site, with the male in tow - in fact often getting a free ride on her back! Different species have different criteria but there are two main ones common to most east coast frogs: the permanence of the water and the absence of fish. How females make these decisions is not known but clearly there is a decision-making process that is related to tadpole survival. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 July 2016
Our Australian bees: unique, quirky and ultra primitive: Most of our bees are primitive, solitary nesting bees that have co-evolved with the most primitive flowering plant family in the world – the eucalyptus and gum trees. Most bees collect pollen on hairs on their body. However, Australia is unique in having many species of primitive bees that carry pollen only in their crop (stomach) as they have no pollen carrying hairs on the outside of their body – they look like wasps! Click here for story and soundfile.
Feral Honey Bees: Professor Graham Pyke from the University of Technology Sydney, outlines how honey bees have impacted the Australian landscape. Honey bees do provide us with honey and do pollinate crops which we need. Less known is their adverse effects on the natural environment. Honey bees do not keep to the hives that people make for them and spread right across the Australian landscape, using vast resources that native animals would otherwise use. It has been estimated that honey bees, for example, consume over 90% of Australia’s floral resources of nectar and pollen. Click here for story and soundfile.
Why some Sydney frogs will only breed in winter: It is hard to imagine there could be any advantages for a cold-blooded animal like a frog to lay its eggs only in winter when food is less plentiful and the cold slows the development of tadpoles. However two species of frogs local to the Sydney region behave in this way and their populations are doing well. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 28 June 2016 
Emu run through: An avian curiosity that has its own very curious nature. The second tallest bird around; and both a marathon runner and sprinter who outstrips human athletes. Yet Emus have never grown up to full adulthood retaining the tiny wings and downy feathers of chicks. While emus cannot fly, the females are quite flighty relationshipwise, leaving the male to build the nest and incubate the eggs (which may include those fertilsed by other males). For emus, it is definitely a case of single parent families and dad is the sole parent, raising the brood for many months after hatching. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 21 June 2016
Shear determination: The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has just started a new seabird project on wedge-tailed shearwaters, a species of mutton bird that occurs in reasonable numbers in NSW all the way down to Montague Island. However, work from Lord Howe Island and Heron Island, where these shearwaters have been tracked, suggests that some of the northern populations aren’t doing as well as the southern ones. This is important since the NSW populations on different islands are sub populations that don’t interact. Nicholas Carlile is currently tracking 80-90 wedge-tailed shearwaters from four different populations, using global light-sensitive loggers that are small enough to be fitted on the 300-400gm wedge-tailed shearwater. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
What happens to tadpoles in floods: Unlike frogs, tadpoles cannot escape from their watery homes. However, they do detect ‘early warning signs’ for example, changes in river water temperature, increase in flow rates and current changes and try to move to calmer, more protected habitat. Otherwise, they are likely to be washed away (as occurs with small fishes too), and may not survive a hostile relocation or injuries from the rushing torrent. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 14 June 2016
Brush work: There are more unique behaviours of Brush Turkeys than simply a dogged determination to decimate neat suburban gardens! Professor Darryl Jones explains the bizzare complications the maintenance of the mounds places on male Brush Turkeys (click here) and Dr Ann Goeth continues an examination of Australian Brush Turkeys who have become very frequent residents in some areas of Sydney (click here).

A Question of Balance Tuesday 7 June 2016
Australia's outrageously creative gardeners:The Australian Brush Turkey is an enthusiastic and creative gardener with a difference. He grows chicks in vast compost mounds rather than plants. This zealous and jealous worker, doesn't even share the site with the females who plant the eggs for him! Dr Ann Goeth looks at the gradual return of this spectacularly unique species to the Sydney region and in particular why they are doing so well in suburban habitats. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 31 May 2016
Environs Kimberley: 20 years of environmental community action
Martin Pritchard, Managing Director of Environs Kimberley, explains why this organisation is having a huge celebration in recognition of its 20 years fighting to protect the Kimberley. Environs Kimberley (EK) is the peak environmental body in the Kimberley and is a non-government organisation (NGO). Back in 1996 EK was established in order to protect the Fitzroy River from a proposal to dam it and a couple of its tributaries. This water was to be used to grow 200,000 hectares of GM cotton. The traditional owners were concerned that it would be very damaging to the environment and their cultural heritage. Over the years EK, together with other organisations and the support of the local communities, has had some outstanding successes in safeguarding many Kimberley environmental treasures. Meanwhile, the battle to protect the mighty Fitzroy River still rages….click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 25 May 2016
Lion Honours: Nicholas Carlile, Acting Principal Scientist at the Science Division of the Office of Environment and Heritage, reports on a recent survey with a focus on seabirds on Sydney’s Lion Island. Lion Island is located near Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach. Like most of New South Wales’ islands Lion Island is a Nature Reserve so people are only allowed to visit if they are involved in its managements or for research. There is a beautiful beach on the south-west corner which has a very large sign (it can be seen from 100m) warning people not to land as it is the major landing site for little penguins, the main seabirds that use the site. It gets its name because its shape is reminiscent of a crouching lion.  Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Ever heard of lecting? Well it could be one way to attract frogs to your garden...well male frogs anyway... and during the breeding season.  Click 
here for soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 17 May 2016
Preserved Species: Dr Arthur White reports on the rediscovery of a frog in an Indian rainforest, one which has carved out a very un-frog like niche. Only two specimens of the frog were known and the species was presumed extinct. That changed recently when living examples were discovered. The frogs rarely come to ground. The females spawn in multiple tiny hollows in the side of trees, each hollow having some water from the rainforest rains. As the tadpoles develop the mother revisits the hollows and squirts out unfertilised eggs as food. The tadpoles feed on this until they are large enough to metamorphose, a great example of parental care in frogs. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 10 May 2016
Not O Kaye:Listeners may be surprised to learn that John Kaye, who recently died, was part of A Question of Balance from early on. In one program from 2005 John Kaye introduces Living in the Hothouse by Ian Lowe, one of John’s heroes, which he recommends for every listener as a seminal work of our times. So 11 years later climate change is on our doorstep but it took a prescient environmental campaigner like John Kaye to highlight its looming challenges. This program was originally recorded in September 2005. In honour of John Kaye, A Question of Balance repeated broadcast on 10 May 2016, shortly after Dr Kaye sudden death. Listening to both John and Professor Lowe (and then Prof Mike Archer) what is disheartening is just how little has improved for the environment worldwide and especially Australia. Yet how quickly other ecological damage has swelled - for example, this was 2005 and pre Australia's major coal seam gas era. adly he will be missed but his messages live on, one being that ignoring climate change is not O Kaye.
Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 26 April 2016 and 3 May
Life on Earth Part 2: Professor Philip Hugenholtz, ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland, places the tree of life under the microscope with the focus on a key feature: microorganisms The first life on Earth was single celled, thought to be the forerunner of the domains of bacteria, archaea and eucarya. Our first physical records of life are of microbial mats which are evidence of huge communities of microbes aggregated together for common good (eg survival by not being buried by layers of sediment) Groups of microorganisms gradually formed extensive thick mats or built up stromatolites (mound shaped objects), some structures surviving over 3.5 billion years - quite an achievement for what was basically a biofilm produced by a microscopic single celled organism. A famous example that stretches for hundreds of kilometres in the ocean off Guerrero Negro, Mexico is 20cm thick. Microorganisms are hardier than people think, mould or scum being a case in point. Different species thrive in temperatures from sub-freezing to above boiling point and can survive without any oxygen or in super-oxygenated environments. They can even survive in radioactive bioreactors. Microorganisms work as a team, sharing nutrients and taking up different functional parts of the food web. There are many advantages in living together as a community, protection being one. While we lack physical fossil records of the evolution of both diverse singled celled and later multicellular organisms, advances in genetic research have made it possible for scientists to look for genes common to all forms of life, and so building up a tree of life to show this evolutionary history. In terms of survival, climate change is a case in point. The Earth has seen many big changes, there always being winners and losers, organisms that can’t adapt dying out. In this regard microorganisms are in a much safer position under climate change than humans who are less adaptive in terms of physiology while many microorganisms will easily adapt to such changing circumstances. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 19 April 2016
Climate Canaries: Dr Arthur White, President of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group, examines the effects of climate change on Australian frogs and the outlook is not good. Over the last ten years a lot of the climate change models have been continuously refined and the algorithms used today are capable of combining data from diverse sources to produce a unified model. Now the models can predict the effects of climate change on particular areas and can look at changes 50 or 100 or 200 years into the future. Using global models, temperature and rainfall patterns in Australia will change but it won’t be uniform. Some parts of Australia will be being subject to far greater changes, southern Australia being one of the worst areas. This is due not to rising temperatures but to the loss of dependable rainfall, some areas suffering quite badly. Northern Australia will have an increase in temperature but it will also have an increase in rainfall. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

Life on Earth ctd: Life on Earth can be divided into three main types, Bacteria, Eucarya (organisms like animals, plants, yeast) and Archaea. Bacteria and Archaea are single-celled and do not contain a nucleus. Billions of years ago there was an organism that predated those three lineages of microorganisms. Bacteria and Archaea evolved from this form and Eucarya probably evolved from Archaea. Interestingly, unlike Bacteria and Eucarya there are no pathogens among the Archaea, so they can be considered as very friendly microbes. Microorganisms perform resource recycling functions that are critical to life on Earth. For example, Archaea perform roles like fixing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and turning over sulphur and iron compounds. Methane gas is produced exclusively by a group of Archaea known as methanogens. Some methanogens exist in Antarctica at sub 0°C and others at temperatures as high as 122°C. Those methanogens that live in places like hydrothermal vents actually eat inorganic matter like carbon dioxide, hydrogen and ammonia and produce organic matter – themselves. Since organic matter is the basis of life, the methanogens were crucial in times past in creating the sort of planet where larger life forms like plants and animals were able to evolve. They remain crucial today since for example they live in the gut of ruminant animals where they break down the components of grass to produce the nutrients (as well as methane!) that are the food for the host animals. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 April 2016
Victory snatched at the finish line: a cheep shot! Verna Simpson, Director with the Humane Society International (HSI) explains how it is back to square one when it comes to the standard for free range eggs. After nine years of hard slog and support from tens of thousands of concerned consumers and the ACCC, legislation defining fair free range stocking densities seemed assured. But political slight of hand in the final days seem to have created an outcome that is even less acceptable than that of a decade ago. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 April 2016
A very fine Port:
Situated in the middle of the tropical currents from the north and the cooler ones from the south, Sydney Harbour boasts many different habitats as well as regarded by many as the most beautiful harbour in the world. There are rocky reefs, kelp beds, sea grass beds, mangroves, saltmarshes and patches of mud and sand. Some of these are exposed and some protected so this wide range accommodates more fish species in Sydney Harbour than the entire coastline of New Zealand or Great Britain. David Booth, Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Technology Sydney, outlines some of the work from the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS). One of the few marine institutes situated on an urban harbour, this was the outcome after many years of looking for a suitable site in Sydney for a marine institute and was finally established in 2005 by four Sydney universities at Chowder Bay. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 March 2016
About those Easter eggs: Eggs are a common symbol of female fertility and instinctive behaviours that help protect and nurture new, developing lives. But that’s not always the case. On AQOB we have three examples where dealing with the eggs is left entirely to the males who have developed three vastly different but similarly successful parenting styles. Three bizarre methods by three equally bizarre Australian native species: The Australian 
Brush TurkeySea Dragon and tiny Hip Pocket Frog.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 22 March 2016
A long rat tale Professor Peter Banks, from the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences, shines a light on a mammal that that has lived with humans for thousands of years – the black rat. A quarter of Australia’s native mammal species are some form of rodent and our native rats came when the sea level dropped, creating land bridges to Indonesia. While there are many different types of rat in Australia including many native species, but there are four main species that live in urban areas of Sydney, including the introduced black rat. Black rats have been living with and around humans for 4,000 years and they are one of the most successful vertebrates in the world in terms of their spread around the globe. They have been spread to many places by ship and their impact on islands is particularly bad, causing a lot of damage to bird life and invertebrates. In urban areas, however, it would be hard to label them an "alien" species because they have evolved in those urban ecosystems. The black rat (Rattus rattus) is also known as the ship rat or the roof rat because of its ability to climb and live in those spaces. They do have unpleasant odours and they can damage wiring. They are an agent for bacterial and viral diseases that humans don’t react well to. Black rats can do positive things in some ecosystems. For example. In Sydney Harbour they are pollinators of banksias, there being no native animals playing that role any more. Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 8 March 2016
Life on Earth: Professor Ricardo Cavicchioli, from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of NSW, delves into the third domain of life, the Archaea. Life on Earth can be divided into three main types, Bacteria, Eucarya (organisms like animals, plants, yeast) and Archaea. Bacteria and Archaea are single-celled and do not contain a nucleus. Billions of years ago there was an organism that predated those three lineages of microorganisms. Bacteria and Archaea evolved from this form and Eucarya probably evolved from Archaea. Interestingly, unlike Bacteria and Eucarya there are no pathogens among the Archaea, so they can be considered as very friendly microbes. Microorganisms perform resource recycling functions that are critical to life on Earth. For example, Archaea perform roles like fixing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and turning over sulphur and iron compounds. Methane gas is produced exclusively by a group of Archaea known as methanogens. The methanogens grow at amazingly diverse temperatures, some existing in Antarctica at sub 0°C and others at temperatures as high as 122°C. Those methanogens that live in places like hydrothermal vents actually eat inorganic matter like carbon dioxide, hydrogen and ammonia and produce organic matter – themselves. Since organic matter is the basis of life, the methanogens were crucial in times past in creating the sort of planet where larger life forms like plants and animals were able to grow. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 1 March 2016
Backyard bird feeding - a natural attraction:
Professor Darryl Jones, urban ecologist from Griffith University, has written a book with the working title The Birds at My Table, a result of lots of research into the practice of backyard bird feeding. The book will be the first to look at bird feeding from a global perspective. As an urban ecologist Professor Jones is interested in the relationships between animals and people (how they interact), especially in cities. His interest in bird feeding began 18 years ago when one of his students was studying magpies in the suburbs and noticed that every second magpie was being fed by someone. This seemed unusual given that all Australian bird and conservation groups said backyard bird feeding should not be done. Subsequent social surveys which included a question about feeding showed a participation rate of 35-50% in urban areas, a similar rate to those in America and Europe (especially Great Britain) where this kind of bird feeding is actually promoted. The book takes an international view on the issues involved in feeding birds using the worldwide data that exist. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 23 February 2016
Viable solar power stations? Dr John Lasich, Chief Technical Officer for RayGen, switches the light on new technology for solar power, advances that lead to solar power stations. There are three challenges for renewable energy. It is dilute, conversion is inefficient and it is intermittent. RayGen has spent the last six years developing a new technology that uses the best features of solar energy, in this case mirrors that concentrate light onto a photovoltaic cell. This technology gives very high performance at a very low cost, addressing one of the main issues with renewable energy, its high cost due to its low efficiency.Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 16 February 2016
A class act: Dr Arthur White, President of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group, brings a good news story about the ability of youth to do something positive and scientifically ground-breaking. Recently the prize-winners in the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards were announced and the winner of the category for school students comes on the back of something extraordinary. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
At the coalface: Annie Marlow, from the Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG – pronounced I nag), casts an eye on coal seam gas in NSW. IKNAG was formed out of the Stop CSG Illawarra group with a particular focus on protecting the Sydney drinking water catchment which the Illawarra shares. Despite not always making mainstream news the Knitting Nannas have an effect on politicians when they hold a Knit-in outside their offices, most MPs being on their best behaviour. Click 
here for story and soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 9 February 2016
Hitching a cool ride on the EAC: Paloma Matis, PhD research student at the University of Technology Sydney, brings insights into the East Australian Current, on its oceanography and on its role in the tropicalisation of temperate reefs as far south as Sydney. She is examining how habitat may structure range expansion in vagrant tropical fish coming down from tropical reefs to temperate reefs like Sydney. Climate change means that many species are moving with their preferred environmental conditions, changing their geographic distribution. Many move away from the equator towards the poles as species try to cope with the increase in temperature. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Atrazine: the DDT of the new Millenium? Dr Arthur White, from the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS) brings news of a herbicide that affects frogs – atrazine. This chemical is a commonly used herbicide in America and Australia, it being effective and relatively cheap. Atrazine was banned in Europe in 2003 because of the high rates of prostate cancer and breast cancer among people who lived in areas where it had been used. While a lot of it enters plants (it is a herbicide) some of it is washed into creeks, streams and in some cases town drinking water. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 2 February 2016
A Climate for Change? Professor Greg Skilbeck, from the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney, delivers an overview on climate change. Many of the predictions from climate models are coming true even though the magnitudes of effects might be different. Some attempts by scientists to provide simple indications of climate change may give false impressions. For example, the single consolidated global temperature record is not a particularly good indicator of the complexity of what is happening in climate change. This is an atmospheric record based on stations on land although the oceans make up the majority of the Earth's surface and work as a coupled system with the atmosphere, storing some of the heat and are getting measurably warmer. While there are perceptions that in recent years we are experiencing more extreme weather events in Australia, whether this is the case is unclear since there are only 170 years of recorded measurements of climate data in Australia, and that is simply not enough to make claims of a one in 500 year event or that storms now are more prevalent or worse, than in the past – we simply do not have a long enough record of data. The recent Paris talks do give hope that there is a global push to do something about climate change, the economic imperative being important because businesses can see what is happening. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and will have to be replaced eventually with something else. Even noted republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger are making positive statements about what needs to be done. He sees the emissions from vehicles and the burning of fossil fuels as creating a pollution problem in the atmosphere, so that alone should be enough for action to be taken, rather than debating whether climate change is real or not. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

Waterfall frogs: Dr Arthur White looks at the unusual waterfall frogs who have one of the most bizarre habitats of all Australian frogs. They have chosen to live in the torrents of water that comprise waterfalls and are only found in the wet tropics. Some 3-5 centimetres in size and dappled in colour, they match perfectly the colour of the wet rocks that they cling to during the day. Click here for story and soundfile.


AQOB Tuesday 26 January 2016
Advance Australia Fair?
Just what is this song about. AQOB suggests it could be an environmental anthem...lauding this land's 'golden soil', the value of toil, the rare and rich beauties of the land and that it should be preserved and go forward as a 'fair land'. Fair covers both beauty and fair behaviour and treatment of the land and of the people.
Contributors to the program bring some contemporary views to how we Australians are 'faring'. Perhaps if more listened to their words we may all remember the words to AAF rather better than do the SNAGS on this program. Click here for links or videos to all songs included in the program.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 19 January 2016
Fog Light: Sarah Sharp, President of Friends of Grasslands (FOG), outlines the work that this 20 year old group does, shining a light on an overlooked ecosystem – grasslands. In many cases grasslands occur naturally where the temperature is so low that trees don’t grow. FOG began in 1994, growing out of a strong push in the 1990s to recognise grasslands as an important ecosystem. The commonwealth came up with a lot of money to investigate where grasslands were located and the actions required to aid their recovery and establishment of FOG was a part of those efforts. FOG's main aims are advocacy and education, especially when decisions that impact on grassy ecosystems are taken. Click here for story and soundfile. 
Frog ice blocks: Australian desert frogs survive often many months of extreme heat and drought by constructing elaborate systems of tunnels and burrows under the desert floor; and by cutting their metabolic rates and slowing heartbeat of about one beat a minute. However these feats pale in comparison to the extremes endured by the Wood Frog, native to North America, where in this freezing and often frozen environment, there is no food for about eight month of the year. The frog survives even though, anatomical studies show the outer skin and muscles actually freeze. However, the inner core does not freeze thanks to the production of a kind of antifreeze although the heart rate falls to two slow drawn out beats per hour. Click here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 12 January 2016
Net profit – a volunteer’s day: Chris Hassell from the Global Flyway Network takes us through a typical day for the many volunteers who help with the tagging of migratory shorebirds at Roebuck Bay on the Kimberley coast in Western Australia. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Why sea levels are about as level as the proverbial playing field: The extremes are in regions close to the equator and to each other, with a difference in height of about 180 metres between the lowest point just south of India, to the highest, near the coast of New Guinea. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 January 2016
Three highly innovative conservation programs for our wildlife that work! From turning quolls off eating cane toads; to constructing a home away from Tasmania style wild habitat for Devils; as well as constructing a forested hill over a busy highway that slices through two beautiful forests. Click
here for story, video link and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 December 2015
Kimbriki's treasure trove of tips that rethink waste management sustainably: originally created as a local council tip, Kimbriki has blossomed into an outstanding community owned enterprise that is successful both financially and environmentally as well as long term sustainability. A definite must for sightseers visiting the Terrey Hills region of northern Sydney! Click here for story and soundfile.
Pauline Curby outlines the history of Kimbriki Tip and how it has managed to make itself commercially viable and a best practice waste management centre. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 22 December 2015
From the Archives: Cane Toad myths and legends:Dr Arthur White explores some of the myths that have developed about one of Australia’s most notorious introduced species – the cane toad. All of these stories are a fascinating insight into the biological myths that have developed around the cane toad. It is interesting that there is a common thread to all these myths, in this case the demonisation of the cane toad. The failure of this introduced species is now widely known, but the cane toad’s reputation is the result of human fallibility, which these days hardly rates a mention Click here for story and soundfile.
Shorebirds - making the most of living in a crowd: Migratory shore birds gather in their many thousands on mudflats, sand bars and river banks. Somehow, they are able to live cooperatively and peacefully in close proximity to birds of their own and many other species. This has many advantages for individual birds. Field Ornithologist Ricki Coughlan reveals more of the amazing lives of migratory shore birds. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 15 December 2015
From the Archives: A massive drain on energy consumption that could well be cleaned up!
Waste water cycle
: Around the world, developed countries use a massive amount of energy on water treatment. In the US, 45 million tons of greenhouse gases are produced in terms of the energy generated to be used in waste water systems each year. The energy is used to move the waste water around and to bubble oxygen into it, an expensive process. Dr Stephen Woodcock, from the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, sums up how waste water management and treatment can be improved by environmental engineering. Click 
here for story and soundfile.
Why frogs frequent toilet bowls: Dr Arthur white presents a lighter take on one aspect of the waste water system. Click 
here for soundfile. 

A Question of Balance, Tuesday 8 December 2015 
From the Archives but sadly even more relevant today...
Contamination examination: Dr Andrew Symons, from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, outlines the role of the state’s environmental forensic laboratory. Environmental forensics is associated with any sort of investigation into contamination in the environment, its purpose being to help a court of law determine the facts. Dr Andrew Symons is part of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, one part of the 20-strong team that has been working in environmental forensics for many years. They are also involved in research projects, working with a range of organisations like universities and the CSIRO. The team has people with different backgrounds to reflect the range of investigations it undertakes. Skills in chemistry, biology and environmental risk assessment are all covered. Members of the team act as expert witnesses in court, helping to establish scientific facts Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 1 December 2015
Remote sensing: climate change and our important semi arid ecosystems: Plants play an important role in helping mitigate global warming, because they absorb on average a quarter of fossil fuel emission each year. Recent and current research have found that major players here are semi arid ecosystems with Australia being a significant contributor. Dr Xuanlong Ma, Postdoctoral Fellow working in the Plant Functional Biology & Climate Change Cluster (C3) at the University of Technology Sydney, explains how remote sensing is being used to gather data about the impacts of climate change on Australia's semi arid ecosystems. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 24 November 2015
Blue carbon biosequestration: Green carbon is carbon that is captured and stored by things on land that are green, such as trees. Blue carbon refers to the carbon that is captured and stored by the oceans. Dr Peter Macreadie explains how coastal ecosystems like seagrasses, saltmarshes and mangroves, help to capture and store carbon, thus reducing carbon emissions. 
Click here for story and soundfile.
Taking stock of ocean productivity: Emeritus Professor John Raven, from Dundee University has a warning about the productivity of our the oceans. In 1798 Malthus published the first edition of his book on population, warning that human population growth could not grow indefinitely because resources would run out. Technological fixes to this problem are hailed as the answer but there are limits. Even mobile phones, for instance, need trace elements such as indium which have to be mined and are a finite source. Click 
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 10 November 2015
Animated Science:
Dr Lisa Roberts, Visiting Fellow in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, outlines how she is bringing scientific data to light through drawing, dance and animation. Click
here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 3 November 2015
World Numbat Day: The endangered numbat has suffered a significant decline since European settlement, primarily due to predation by introduced predators such as cats and foxes. Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) protects almost 30% of the remaining Numbat population in two large, self-sustaining populations at Scotia and Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuaries. Felicity L’Hotellier, South-East Field Ecologist with AWC, talks about this little known native mammal. Click here for story and soundfile.
Netting backyard fruit trees: Every year, large numbers of flying-foxes become entangled in protective netting which loosely covers backyard fruit trees. The injuries sustained are horrific, often causing a painful and slow death. These can largely be avoided by use of suitable netting that is secured correctly or by simple, inexpensive solutions such as strategic placement of shade cloth. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 27 October 2014
The Art of Science: On 20 August 2015 the Science Faculty at the University of Technology Sydney hosted a guided tour called A Walk through Living Data for the public. The evening was inspired by Dr Lisa Roberts and brought scientists and artists together to foster connections to better address some of the pressing issues now facing humanity....especially climate change. During the evening the scientists and artists presented their creative displays merging sci and art. By collaborating, scientists and artists appreciate that both endeavours are highly creative. Most of the displays were dependent on visual images and videos. However, Bill Gladstone’s descriptions of the intimate entanglement of art and science in his underwater images as a marine biologist were so evocatively described, that his word images alone conveyed much of his thoughts and emotions that related to the five photographs he presented. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 6 October 2015
Magpie swoops: Professor Darryl Jones from Griffith University delves into an Australian icon, the magpie swoop, and uncovers some interesting facts. Magpies, bold Australian icons of the nesting season, are one of the most widespread species of birds in Australia, inhabiting most places except for those with extreme tropical climates. They are among the most common birds in cities and towns, usually with a high density population. It is surprising therefore, that much of what is known about magpies is not scientific evidence, and the vast majority of that information is based around one activity – the magpie swoop. A staggering 93% of magpie swoops are aimed at males. Most of these involve young boys…..

Cold climate echidnas may enter hibernation as early as late summer while males arouse during chilly late winter: The hibernation is part of a complex cycle of fattening up in preparation for the hibernation, the hibernation itself and- above all - reproduction.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 29 September 2015
Remote sensing: Earth surveyors in action! Professor Alfredo Huete, Professor of Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change at the University of Technology Sydney, takes a closer look at remote sensing and its uses. Remote sensing is done by cameras that may be in space or balloons, on mountains or towers or airplanes that observe and monitor a certain part of the earth’s surface. The accumulated images and pictures can then be interpreted, often after enhancement and then used for ecological, environmental or management purposes.. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 15 September 2015
Small World:
Termites are abundant and successful species. Termites are closely related to cockroaches and are ancient (originating some 145 million years ago), diverse (over 3000 species), widespread (all continents except Antarctic) and endemic to Australia. They account for some 20% of the animal biomass in rainforest areas so their numbers are huge compared to other animals. They are prey for ants, anteaters and other opportunistic predators. Because they make up 20% of the animal biomass, different colonies compete with each other for resources. Dr Thomas Bourguignon, from Sydney University’s School of Biological Sciences, discusses some of the reasons why termites became so successful. Click here for story and soundfile.
Relatives of sharks:
Sharks have a wide range of somewhat less ferocious relatives and Australia has a very diverse collection, with over 300 identified species of sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras. They are generally small but manta rays, for instance, have wing spans of four or five metres. Dr Vic Peddemors, looks at the other species, especially skates and rays and chimaeras (also known as ratfish). Click here for story and soundfile.
Hedging their bets: Dr Arthur White delves into a major difference in Australian frogs hatching process compared with northern hemisphere species in their survival strategy known as developmental plasticity. The unusual outcome is that when Australian tadpoles hatch it is a staged process. Most hatch within the first few days but the remaining quarter would gradually hatch over the following weeks or even months. In fact, there are still unhatched eggs when the first tadpoles are near metamorphosis and it can take months for the final hatchings to occur. It is yet another strategy developed by our native fauna to cope with Australia’s demanding climate where floods and droughts can arrive and endure in a predictably unpredictable timeframe. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 8 September 2015
Sharks: perfectly constructed for marine predation: Sharks have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and are perfectly evolved marine predators with no competition at the top of the food chain until humans arrived. Marine biologist and experienced shark researcher, Dr Vic Peddemors, dives deep into the world of shark behaviour and examines some important features of shark physiology that contribute to their long standing success. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 1 September 2015
'Sniffer’ Detection dogs in protecting threatened wildlife: Dogs have been used for hunting for millennia, not only for their brilliant sense of smell but also because they co-exist with humans and can be trained. Even in WWII dogs were given animal VCs for their efforts in sniffing out humans caught in bomb-blasted buildings in the Blitz in Britain. It has taken us this long to get dogs involved in the management of threatened wildlife, particularly seabirds. Indeed, New Zealand has been using detector dogs for almost 20 years to manage threatened species and to help remove pest species in conservation programs. Steve Austin, professional dog trainer, outlines how dogs are trained to detect specific scents and why this work is important. Click here for story and sound file and Nicholas Carlile, Senior Research Scientist for Threatened Island Fauna in the NSW Office for Environment and Heritage, tracks down the role sniffer dogs have in protecting threatened species like seabirds.. Click here for story and soundfile. 

A Question of Balance Tuesday 25 August 2015
Sounds of the sea: Most people don’t realise that the ocean is a cacophony of noise, many animals making noise both deliberately and incidentally. They use noise to communicate over distances from centimetres to 100km and, in for the great whales, sometimes even across ocean basins. Click here for story and soundfile. 
The Australian Rat Race: Associate Professor Peter Banks, from the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences, shines a light on a mammal that many revile – the rat. A quarter of Australia’s native mammal species are some form of rodent but there are also four introduced species of rat. Australia’s native rats came when the sea level dropped, creating land bridges to Indonesia. The first invasion happened about 3-4 million years ago which gave rise to the ancestors of most of our native rodents. Another, some 1 million years ago, introduced another 8-9 species in the same genus as the black rat. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 18 August 2015
Migratory shorebirds - a life of constant change: The only constant in a migratory shorebird's life is constant change - feathers, body proportions, feeding time and location. Shorebirds are remarkably attuned to their environments and at the Roebuck Bay mudflats near Broome on the Kimberley coast they cope with huge tidal differences which can be up to ten metres. This means that on some days these mudflats are around four kilometres wide but when the neap tide arrives this will reduce to some three hundred metres. Chris Hassell, shorebird researcher with the Global Flyway Network, discusses some of the extraordinary changes that migratory shorebirds regularly undergo. Click here for story and soundfile.
Aussie Diggers: One of the most unusual animals, echidnas really have dug out their own niche, making them real Aussie diggers. Indeed, in terms of appearance alone they are unique from their beak like nose to their tiny hairless plump tail.
. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 11 August 2015
Our cryptic bandicoots: Associate Professor Peter Banks, from Sydney University, uncovers the world of another unique Australian animal - the bandicoot. Bandicoots are classified by ecologists as critical weight range mammals (between 35g and 5.5kg) which have really suffered since Europeans arrived in Australia, the rabbit-sized bandicoots suffering the worst from fox predation. Click here for story and soundfile.
Barnacles are in the news: Because they have an important forensic role. Many people think barnacles are molluscs, similar to limpets or snails, but they are actually crustaceans and are related to crabs and shrimps. Dr Gary Poore takes us into the lives of these unusual marine creatures who are renowned for their rather notable sexual gear. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 4 August 2015
Wildfire, water and eucalypts: On the east coast of Australia the water supply reservoirs are mostly found in eucalypt forests, forests that are prone to burning from bushfires. Dr Rachael Nolan, Research Associate in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, looks at how bushfires affect our water supply. Click here for story and soundfile.
Kimberley snakes – still out and about in winter: Chris Mitchell, who has a long involvement with Kimberley wildlife rescue groups of volunteers who rescue, rehabilitate and release native animals) talks about his speciality – snakes. At this time of year (July - August) around Broome due to the cool temperatures, most snakes are semi hibernating. While they don’t have to eat for three or four months they still will come out into the sun to get warmth. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 21 July 2015
New Energy Levels: Mark Bretherton, from the Clean Energy Council, explains the role of this peak renewable energy organisation and the role of other organisations and factors in Australia’s renewable energy sector.The last few years have been challenging for the renewable energy sector when the federal government decided to review the Renewal Energy Target (RET) at the beginning of 2014. The RET is the most important policy for the renewable energy industry, encouraging the lowest cost types of renewables to be built. The uncertainty created by that review meant that financiers were reluctant to lend the money required, investments dropping by 90% for large scale renewables like wind farms and solar farms. The 13 projects that were underway in 2013 slowed to a trickle, with only a couple of projects still underway. The 18 months of chronic uncertainty were ended when bipartisan support for a lower target was achieved. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 14 July 2015 A feel good program where we are once again surprised by our native fauna.
The Smell of Success: Associate Professor Clare Macarthur, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences, makes sense of how swamp wallabies use their noses to find the food they want to eat. Click here for story and soundfile.
A Rare Breed: Dr Jennifer Sprent, from the University of Tasmania,burrows into the lives and ways of our unusual ant-eating echidnas. Despite being quite common, their unusual appearance and lifestyles mean these egg-lying mammals really are a rare breed. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 7 July 2015
Eco-Schools - environmental values (and value!): The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), based in Denmark, has been running Eco-Schools for 20 years overseas. Keep Australia Beautiful has taken on the role of being its service provider in Australia, now making the program available to Australian schools. Keep Britain Tidy and Keep Wales Tidy have been running the Eco-Schools program for over ten years and has been extremely successful with 80-100% of schools participating. Australian registrations were opened in May 2014, launching at Harrington Public School. Since then over 150 schools have registered covering some 50 local government areas across Australia. Stacey Passey, from Keep Australia Beautiful, looks at how the Eco-Schools program fared in its first year. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 30 June 2015
A hot topic: Professor Krishan Kumar, Visiting Professor at UTS, from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, explores urban heat island formations and the effects they have. The focus of his research has been upon the vast city of Delhi and its rural environs. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 23 June 2015
Applied science: Dr Ken Walker, Senior Entomology Curator for Museum Victoria discusses two approaches to citizen science, each with different goals. The "Directed" occurs when a scientist creates a project and seeks out volunteers to help collect data. For example, the project may be a survey focussed on a single, easily observed and identified animal, such as koalas or a rare bird or plant. The "Serendipitous" approach gathers data that expands our knowledge of biodiversity generally. It involves the unrestricted observations and recordings. Click here for story and soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 16 June 2015

Wind farms!!! On AQOB today I think we need to stand up for Science. There have been some rather sad comments made about wind farms in recent days and it would be nice to sort out fact from fantasy. The trouble with science is that it can’t give flippant comments that suit 30 second grabs for television or radio: scientists mull through long tables of facts and figures and lose the interest of most people. On AQOB we have had a number of really interesting interviews that have been on wind farms, on the lack of health effects; on the multiple uses that they make possible on the same area of land; how they can assist farmers to be drought proofed by ongoing income; how companies contribute to the communities where the wind farms are placed; and how, when at the end of the lives of the wind towers, they can be taken down and the land is as it was and not degraded. So rather than going through it all over again with new interviews, I thought I’d draw to your attention some of the main points that various of these well informed and enthusiastic researchers and professionals have made on AQOB over the years. This is a politician-free zone: we do not interview politicians which means we are limited to only presenting material for which facts are available and have been published. You’ll hear from Professor Simon Chapman from Sydney University, Alicia Webb, and Lisa Taylor from the Clean Energy Council as they give a balanced view on wind farms.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 2 June 2015
A flood of ideas: Like death and taxes, two other certainties that go together are floods and flood plains. In Australia, most human settlement is close to rivers or lakes and major cities including Brisbane are certain to experience repeated flooding. It is management of such floods that is the basis of a ten year long national Australian Rainfall and Run-off research project that Associate Professor James Ball discusses today. Floods may well be rare events but they disrupt the community and the economic activity within it. They are, therefore, quite significant events and their consequences need to be better managed. The whole project, which is near completion, is managed by Engineers Australia and is geared to produce a document that provides guidance on design flood estimation across Australia. These design flood estimates cross borders and do not change when moving from one political jurisdiction to another, something that does not happen now. Click here for story and soundfile.
Free range hens regulations: It looks as if the final crunch time is later this month. Will free range hens actually remain free range so that the increased cost to the consumer is legitimate AND maybe the hens are happy too! Time for one (hopefully) final surge of consumer activity and support for the Humane Society International alert to all our State Ministers for Fair Trading. Click here for soundfile.


A Question of Balance Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Thought that Counts: Professor Giorgio Vallortigara’s group has previously shown that very young chicks not only have a good understanding of the ordinal properties of numbers (two is more than one but less than three or five) and display a strong preference to 'count' the ordinal position on a line of items from the left to the right. Today he explains new research that shows that even few day chicks already have a spontaneous tendency to map numbers into space, something humans do naturally when they form mental number lines. Click here for story and soundfile.

Are Australian frogs suitable animals to be raised as pets: some are wonderfully so and some  are definitely not. While frogs are easy to care for and can be enthralling to watch and feed, there are important responsibilities for people who have pet frogs in Australia. One is that frogs are often very long lived so need a carer who will remain their long term friend. Click here for soundfiles.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 28 April 2015
Feeding wildlife - more than a 'national' pastime (it is truly international!)
Renee Chapman, a doctoral student with Professor Darryl Jones, outlines her extensive research into the motivations and attitudes behind wildlife feeding, comparing Australia (where it is frowned upon) and the UK (where it is actively encouraged) for the first time. In Australia there is an unofficial opposition to bird feeding with a focus on the negative impacts for wildlife even though there is very little research into the negative impacts of feeding birds so that unofficial position is based on assumptions. Click here for story and soundfile.

Why not attract another wildlife group to your garden: frogs and frog friendly backyards.
 Frogs are not fussy. Any shallow water point in a protected part of the yard with plenty of plants to shield them from the gaze of hungry birds will do. Click here for soundfile.

A Question of Balance Tuesday 3 February 2015
Forty percent efficiency and rising! Dr Mark Keevers, Senior Research Fellow with the University of NSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) outlines recent improvements in photovoltaics and the impact on solar energy. SPREE has just achieved a world record of 40% efficiency for converting sunlight to electricity with a solar prototype submodule that uses concentrated sunlight. This is one of several hundred innovative renewable energy projects that ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency, set up two and a half years ago by the Labour Government) has supported with the goal of taking Australian research and development of efficient and sustainable renewable programs from the laboratory stage to large scale field enterprises that can demonstrate commercial viability. ARENA is however, earmarked to be scrapped by the Abbott government. Click here for story and soundfile.

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