Monday 27 September 2021


In early August Hoot Detective, a Science Week 2021 citizen science project, was launched. This project, which is involved with identifying owl calls, is a partnership between the Australian Acoustic Observatory, Queensland University of Technology, the University of New England and ABC Science.

Citizen scientists with a connected device listen to a ten second grab of audio that has been selected as having a ‘sound of interest’ in it. They are asked to listen for any owl calls and then choose the sounds found in the audio from a short list of owls, frogs, insects, koalas and more.

The audio comes from the Australian Acoustic Observatory which has been collecting sound from around Australia for two years.  It has more than 400 sensors in 360 sites across the country.  As each sensor collects over two terabytes (2000 gigabytes) of data per year, the observatory’s database is already immense.

Scientists will use the recordings to understand what creatures are where throughout the country and how our environment is changing in response to bush fires, floods, invasive species and climate change.

The audio for Hoot Detective involves data from 10 sites from across the country including Reedy Creek in Queensland, Tarcutta Hills in NSW, Arkaba in South Australia and Newhaven in the Northern Territory. The owls the project is interested in are Powerful Owl, Barking Owl, Southern Boobook, Eastern Barn Owl and Masked Owl.

Participants are given trainScience Week 2021ing and information on the website  Those concerned they may not have identified a call correctly are assured that at least ten people will do each audio file.

The work of the citizen scientists will contribute to the training of algorithms in identifying owls from their calls and will save scientists and researchers years of work in cataloguing the audio in the observatory.

On August 27 the Hoot Detective website listed 15,684 owl calls had been found in 4474 sessions by citizen scientists. The project will continue until February 2022.

Hoot Detective shows the potential for similar citizen scientist work on the observatory’s audio files.

            - Leonie Blain

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , September 1, 2021


Wednesday 15 September 2021


How much environmental damage will it take before the intensive horticultural industry is properly regulated?

If I want a swimming pool, I have to lodge a development application. However, berry growers can transform forests into a ‘sea’ of plastic with little or no approval needed. Certainly, no environmental impact assessment is required.

Just this week, I received an email from a distressed Corindi resident, claiming: “In the past year there has been an alarming rate of land clearing between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. We are talking about clear felling of established trees with the ground scraped bare. The fallen trees are then burned, destroying whatever else may have been harbouring in them.  

Almost invariably this is done before blueberries are established and covered with nets, resulting in total habitat destruction.

The advent of these farms seems to coincide with an almost complete disappearance of bees, both exotic and native species, that I am used to have visiting my garden, I used to have scores of tetragonulas, several peacock carpenter and carpenter bees, and resin bees visiting and nesting but this season despite an abundance of flowers, both native and exotics, they have all but disappeared.

I am very saddened and concerned about this, but have no idea how to address this or who to talk to”.

How do we respond to this cry for help? The Clarence Environment Centre, and others, have called for the horticultural industry to be regulated for almost 20 years.

We have continually lobbied authorities, and Ministers, to no avail. One Minister even responded saying he was not in favour of regulation because it "encouraged non-compliance". How's that for pathetic?

Scandals like the discovery of excessive nutrients in Coffs waterways, and illegal migrant workers as well as the revelation that over 80% of growers investigated were non-compliant with water regulations (i.e. stealing water), and the latest pollution of Woolgoolga Lake, have all failed to bring change. Instead, the government simply throws more money on advisory committees, and grants to help growers follow "best practice".

- John Edwards

 Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , September 9,, 2021


Wednesday 8 September 2021


NEFA Media Release 8 September 2021

NEFA is calling upon the NSW Government to follow the leads of Western Australia and Victoria by immediately adopting a plan to phase out logging of public native forests because of their vital roles in taking up and storing carbon and providing homes for so many of our threatened species.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan today announced that logging of public native forests will be phased out by 2024, stating "Protecting this vital asset is critical in the fight against climate change."

This visionary decision is in stark contrast to the announcement by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean on Tuesday that he will increase protection for 4% of existing national parks, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

“This is the best that Matt Kean can offer at a time when logging of north-east NSW’s public forests is set to be ramped up to extract millions of tonnes of woodchips to replace coal in electricity generation, and while existing protections for threatened species, including Koalas, are weakened on State Forests and private lands.

We are in the midst of climate and species-extinction crises that need to be urgently addressed, said NEFA spokesperson Susie Russell.

“The simplest and most effective action we can take to buy us time to reduce emissions and replant forests, is to stop logging those we have left so they can regain their lost carbon and habitat values.

”Most Wood Supply Agreements expire in 2023, so this would be an appropriate time to end logging of public native forests in NSW”  Ms Russell said.

The Victorian Government has already announced that they will phase out logging of public native forests by 2030.

The Queensland Government is still debating whether to honour the 1999 South-East Queensland Forests Agreement (SEQFA) commitment to phase out logging of public native forests by 2024.

The West Australian Government has committed $50 million for a Just Transition Plan to support affected workers, businesses and local economies, and $350 million boost to planting of softwoods as an alternative resource.

“We need to follow West Australia’s lead and provide support to affected workers, businesses and local economies as part of the necessary transition to a cleaner and greener future.

“If we want to improve the lives of our grandkids we must act urgently to stop all logging of public native forests” Mr Pugh said.