Australian climate and environment 10,000 years ago

Our March Meeting 2018  was well attended with 54 members & visitors. Our speaker this month was Richard Wright AM, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Sydney with the title of his talk being: “What was happening with the Australian climate and environment 10,000 years ago?”

In the 1970s and 1980s Richard conducted excavations on the edges of swamps in Victoria and NSW. These digs yielded insights into ancient archaeology, plants and mammals.

10,000 years ago at the start of the Holocene period was the beginning of a relatively stable climate and environment. Just prior to that, there had been an unusually large increase in temperatures.

Richard explained the contents of his excavations which were in deposits called loess. This term was new to most of the 54 members and guests at our meeting. These deposits consist of fine wind blown silt, typically in the 20–50 micrometre size range, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate. These deposits can be several metres in depth. Some very large examples can be found in China (more than 100 metres deep.)

Loess seem to be formed in Australia when lakes suddenly dry out causing these fine particles to be moved by the prevailing winds over short periods of time, resulting in homogeneous accumulations. Excavations by Richard unearthed examples of now extinct mega fauna.

Richard has also been involved in forensic excavations of mass graves in Bosnia for the United Nations and more recently in the recovery and identification of WW1 skeletal remains at Fromelles in France.

Eastern Water Dragon and their adaptability

We had a record number of attendees with 75 members and guests at our first general meeting in February
which featured speaker James Baxter -Gilbert. His enthusiastic talk on the Eastern Water Dragon and their adaptability to a changing urban environment was fascinating.
 
An interesting aspect of the presentation was the methodology applied by James and the rigorous testing used in his research.
 
He captivated the audience with his story on the elusive nature of the dragon – taking him 6 months to capture candidates. It is anticipated that his impressive research will be awarded a PhD in Science . James put the offspring of the originally captured and released lizards through all sorts of rigorous  experiments to test nature over nurture. The research looked at whether genetic difference was the reason the dragons have survived and thrived in a man – made world or if a steep curve of learned behaviour was the key .
 
In conclusion James believes it is a combination of both with final results ready in another month or so. After such grueling research and experimentation, the expectation of a PhD
is particularly satisfying. A touching end to the presentation was to see James’ Dad throw his arm around his son in a show of admiration and pride
 

New Program for 2018

OFF Field Officer, Graham Fry and Program Officer Matt Allison have put together the program of activities for 2018. There is a mixture of easy excursions and some more demanding walks. Our monthly Monday meetings will feature environmental research, travel and tips on living sustainably.  CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

Take a look at our 2018 Program- pdf copy can be printed or get a card at one of our talks or walks

2018 Program

MEETINGS: Held at 7.30 pm in Oatley RSL & Community Club, 23 Letitia Street, Oatley

CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

 

FEBRUARY

26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

James Baxter-Gilbert examining eastern water dragons and their adaptability to urban habitat.

MARCH

1st Thursday – Field day

Victoria Barracks – tour of precinct with its early colonial architecture. Leader: Julian Sheen

21st Wednesday – Field day

Walk from Edgecliff to Circular Quay via Royal Botanic Garden. Leader: Keith McRorie

26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Em Prof of Anthropology, Richard Wright OAM examines the Australian climate & environment of 10,000 years ago.

APRIL

23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Julian Sheen on The Old Burma Road to Shangrila: travelling beyond expectations in Myanmar and China.

27/29th Weekend field trip

Stay in Capertee NP homestead surrounded by wildlife; explore the valley. Leader: Deb Andrew

MAY

28th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Ecologist Dr Rod Armistead from Eco Logical explains the Phytophthora Dieback in Myles D R.

JUNE

3rd Sunday – Field day

Parramatta – further exploration of its heritage sites and parks. Leader: Vicki Bolling

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Author Paul Irish revealing his recent book “Hidden in Plain View” exploring Aboriginal lives post 1788.

JULY

1st Sunday – Field Day

North Head – medium walk through rare heathland and wildflowers. Leader: Melina Amerasinghe

23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Bev Debrincat shows how easy it is to establish small bird habitat corridors in our own yards.

29th Sunday – Field Day

Nattai NP – medium to hard walk to Bonnum Pic, spectacular views. Leader Adrian Buzo

AUGUST

27th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Movie screening of “Secrets at Sunrise”: Western Australia’s rarest bird: the western ground parrot.

SEPTEMBER

2nd Sunday – Field Day

Sydney Olympic Park – Heritage Railway tour, birds, wetlands. Leader: Liz Cameron

23rd Sunday – Field Day

Quarantine Station North Head – tour of heritage buildings, colonial history. Leader: Yvonne Penn

24th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Cliff Crane (The Banjo) reminisces on famous and little known Oatley Bushwalkers of Yesteryear.

OCTOBER

22nd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Prof Ross Jeffree shows it is possible with the “Conservation success stories of Bhutan”.

27th Saturday – Field day

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – cool climate Spring flowers. Leader: Graham Fry

NOVEMBER

18th Sunday – Field Day

Stony Range Botanical Garden, an oasis of native plants in Dee Why. Leader: Graham Lalchere

26th Monday Meeting & Social Supper – 7.30pm

PhD candidate, Reannan Honey brings us up to speed on the results of her “Homes in Hollows” study which OFF is helping to finance.

DECEMBER

3rd Christmas Picnic in Oatley Park

PROGRAM 2019

FEBRUARY

4th AGM – 7.30pm

Followed by members’ photos & supper

COMMITTEE

President

Graham Lalchere 9580 3107

Vice Presidents

Alan Fairley 9570 8332

Julian Sheen 9594 4888

Secretary

Liz Cameron 9580 6621

Treasurer

Rodger Robertson 9570 7471

Program & Publicity Officer

Matt Allison 0408 605 923

Field Officer

Graham Fry 9580 6621

Membership Officer

Robin Dickson 9580 5663

Website Officer

Melina Amerasinghe 0400 300 662

Grants Officer

Kim Wagstaff 9580 7919

Additional Officers

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Peter de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Ben Hope 0402 358 348

Peter Mahoney 0435 990 965

James Deli 0434 441 800

Appointed Positions

Public Officer

Julian Sheen 9594 4888

Editorial Committee

Conservation Advisor

Deb Andrew 9570 2695

Hospitality and Welcome

Beverley Watters 9534 1096

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Sue de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Sue Howard 9579 1718

 

 

Sheldon Forest Track – OFF Field day

OFF Field Day on Tuesday 15 August will be on Sheldon Forest Track, a 5-6 km walk from Turramurra Station through tall forest bordering Avon Creek and returning along Pymble streets.  This is not a long walk but includes steep streets and an uneven track with many stone steps descending to a running stream and back up again.  The track passes through majestic forest which transitions from Sydney Blue Gum through Blackbutt to Turpentine and thence Coachwood.  The main attractions are the changing vegetation, birdlife and peacefulness – it will be an opportunity for photography and ‘forest bathing’, so a leisurely pace is recommended.

Travel in 2nd last carriage departing Oatley Station at 8.45 am; 9.27 am train from Town Hall arriving Turramurra at 10.04 am.

Bring something for a late morning tea/early lunch along the track.  Back at Turramurra Station by about 2 pm.  Leader: Liz Cameron 9580 6621; elsmere02@gmail.com 

For more information and map see – Ku-ring-gai Council – Sheldon Forest Track:

Forest bathing:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing

Holding Back the Concrete – Dorothy Luther

HOLDING BACK THE CONCRETE – URBAN BUSH PROJECTS
DOROTHY LUTHER – OATLEY RSL 26 MAY AT 7:30PM

Inner Sydney is fast becoming a concrete jungle, with high rise apartments & shopping centres driving out the houses & corner shops that formed local communities. Even the remaining houses are being gentrified, with high walls hiding buxus hedges & garden furniture. Trees and gardens are disappearing because they’re untidy & take too much work.

But some intrepid souls are fighting back – a small but determined army of bush carers, community groups & feral gardeners are trying to stem the tide, with support from local governments – also under threat. They’re creating bush pockets, rain gardens, walking & cycle tracks that enable us to still keep in touch with nature & watch the antics of birds & lizards.
This is the story of some of those groups.

BIO
Dorothy Luther says she has been a member of APSoc for about 20 years, since buying an inner suburban house that needed a bush garden. She has been through the struggles of indigenous vs what will grow and has killed many plants in the process. This has led to many discussions with community gardening groups in the area. She is currently investigating rain forest plants since they seem to grow best in the much modified habitat. Her love of plants comes from growing up in the bush, not from any formal studies & botanical names are still confusing.


 
 

Living Rivers -Swimmable Urban Rivers

170227StuartKhanFor our first meeting of 2017, 60 members and guests welcomed Associate Professor Stuart Khan from UNSW School of Civil & Environmental Engineering to the podium. Stuart informed us of the current plan to ‘Make Parramatta River Swimmable Again by 2025’ which has been entrusted to the Parramatta River Catchment Group – an amalgam of River Councils, Sydney Water, Dept of Planning and the EPA.

There are currently swimming baths and beaches along the river that had been used historically (and still are) but, being a working river with a legacy of highly polluting industries along its shores, the quality of the water is dubious. Water testing over the years has revealed many and varied toxins suspended in the water column and, more worryingly, present in high densities in the sediment. Among many dirty industries Union Carbide had a large factory producing chemicals used during the Vietnam War and the resultant dioxins have entered the river and accumulated in the food chain. It is recommended that fish caught west of the Harbour Bridge not to be eaten. Industries generally do not discharge into the river anymore and there are heavy fines for doing so. However, some factories now discharge into the sewer and pay Sydney Water via a licence for the privilege.

Treatment of effluent is carried out at the ocean-end of the sewage carriers and that can prove problematic during a rain event. Stormwater enters the sewer and during heavy rain the overburdened pipes release untreated effluent directly into the creeks and river. In conclusion, swimming in the Parramatta River may well be feasible BUT unless a massive upgrade of the sewerage system is implemented then the current discharges of pollutants into the catchment during rain events will regretfully render the river risky for regular recreational revival.

CLICK HERE FOR A Pdf COPY OF THE SLIDE PRESENTATION

Members were reminded that Oatley Swimming baths have a proud and long history, with the existence of the Oatley Swimming Club at Jewfish Bay Baths since 1927 The society will work to ensure that it remains safe in terms of water quality.

 

Penshurst Public School Project

P1000645Oatley Flora and Fauna Society was contacted in mid 2016 to help years 3 & 4 at Penshurst Public School, with a unit on Sustainability in Term 3. We were asked to talk about sustainability or endangered fauna and flora in the Georges River area and to suggest native plants suitable for an area of the playground to be planted by the children.

image2On 15 September four OFF members – Melina Amerasinghe, Vicki Bolling, Liz Cameron and Graham Fry – spoke to about 120 children. Melina presented a slide show on the historical forest on Forest Road, and the subsequent clearing and settlement of the area. The children listened with interest and participated actively, asking question throughout the presentation.         CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE SHOW

P1000652Some plants and birds were highlighted to show the structure and variety of plants and animals of the lost forest with some flowers passed around to the children. A small group of students planted some of the native shrubs we had brought with us. A list of plants suitable for the garden was suggested with an offer by the society to source some for the school.

P1070022There was some concern that with the onset of the warmer weather it may be best to wait till Autumn in 2017. However, as the children were enthusiastic to see the project completed and with the assurances that the caretaker was going to water the plants over the summer holiday, the society funded tube stock from the Menai Wildflower Group nursery. These were planted late in term 4.

InvitationVicki Bolling and Liz Cameron attended the Grand Opening of the Garden on 8 December with a program and refreshments organised by the students. The students sang a song about sustainability with the refrain “refuse, reuse, recycle” composed by one of the teachers and his daughter. We hope this has been a fulfilling project for the children that will instill in them an interest in local flora and fauna.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

An Expedition to Spitzbergen in the Arctic

magdalena-fijordGary Schoer, OFF member and extensive Polar traveller joined us once again in November to share his photos and assessment of the beauties of and threats to the Arctic. Gary took us with him on a Aurora Expedition small group expedition to the Svalbard Archipaelego which includes its biggest Island, Spitzbergen, in between Northern Norway and Greenland. 

 
puffinsWhile Gary was fortunate to see and capture some great images of seabirds such as puffins, Northern Fulmars, Ivory Gulls and Guillemonts to name a few, he gave additional insights into their conservation status and particular threats which are causing many populations to plummet in the last 20 years or so.
 
calving-arcticThe smoking gun seems to be especially the rapid increase in average air temperatures, reduction in amount of sea ice especially thicker multi-year ice. In some areas average temperatures have increased by as much as 10 degrees celsius, causing the frozen soil of the tundra to melt and even creating additional pine forests where once there were no trees over many parts of the Arctic. 
 
IMG_9926bear


 
Gary had to travel to 81 degrees North to see 6 of 7 polar bears sighted on the journey on sea ice, which was virtually absent further south…a big change over as little as 15 years since OFFS members Julian and Annette Sheen were there. One other bear was sighted on a small glacial moraine island where it may have had to swim quite a distance to get access to Arctic tern eggs…a pressure on a bird that has flown 15 000 km from Antarctica to breed there.    
 
flowersSo, as Gary emphasised, everything is connected. The changesd size of populations and average body length of the important bird-food fish  may be contributing to sea bird losses.
 
While we in Australia and more temperate worlds argue about how to effect behavioural and fuel use changes to keep average world temperatures below 2 degrees above recent historical levels, the animals, plants and indigenous people who live there are well past that target, and we can only hope that sensible and strong political efforts will stope what we are seeing in the Arctic creating a tipping point that will affect ecosystems well beyond the poles.
magdalena-fijord
 

Oysters – Canaries of our Estuary

laurie-derwentLaurie Derwent spoke at our 24 October 2016 meeting on the rise, fall and eventual demise of the oyster industry along the Georges River.

The Derwent Family were involved in the oyster industry for the best part of 100 years. Lauries spoke from his personal experience as an oyster farmer in his youth and over 35 years experience working for various fisheries and maritime agencies until his retirement in 2013. During his lifetime, Laurie has seen the river change from an ideal oyster-growing environment to a “disaster”.

oysters-from-georges-river

He spoke of the rich history of the estuarine areas around the Georges River – home of the world’s best oyster: Saccostrea glomerata (Sydney Rock Oyster).

He spoke of its cultivation from the early days in 1880’s: when stone was cut, and laid around the estuary to capture spat; and the rack method where oysters were suspended above the mud to avoid the mud worm.

As the production and the demand for oysters increased, this sustainable industry supported many farmers for generations. Then the troubles began with E. coli infection from water pollution; TBT (antifouling paint) influence on shellfish; introduction of rogue Pacific oyster; and the death knell itself – QX in 1994. This parasite ruined the oyster industry in the Georges River and the livelihood of many local farming families.

The humble oyster spends its entire life protected by its sharp shell feeding on the nutrient provided by the healthy River. But as our city continues to grow unabated, and our sewerage and drainage infrastructure buckles, our precious river engorges on a toxic cocktail and the humble oyster is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR FULL POWER POINT PRESENTATION

neverfail-bay-oyster-lease-remnants Neverfail Bay Oyster Lease Remnants oysters-on-shell-bed Lime Kiln Bay Oyster Shell Bed tray-cultivation-oatley-pk Oatley Park Tray Bed Cultivation oyster-trays Pulling up Oyster Trays

 

 

 

 

 

Central Asia

105Talk on Central Asia on 26th September by Julian Sheen

This presentation grappled with the complex history of Central Asia, sometimes known as the five Stans (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).

71Culture, mixing history and geography, dealt with the nomadic tribes of the steppe and the limited influence of China. Stories of such exotic peoples and places as the Sogdians, the Parthians, and the Saminids with Samarkand, Bukhara and Ashkhabad were traced along the great artery of central Asia: the Amu Darya (or Oxus River).

27The backdrop was the towering mountains of the Pamir and Tienshan and the parchment dry of the Karakum desert.
Alexander the Great made his mark here in 320BC, later came the Islamic invasion of the Arabs, the contest with China and the growth of Persian influence leading to the golden age of the Islamic enlightenment (about 900-1200AD).

57Much of this was swept away by the crushing impact of the Mongols in 1220AD followed by the destruction brought about by Tamerlane. Threading though this vivid historical tapestry of beauty, delicate artistry, violence and terror were the Silk Road caravan routes to and from China, India, Persia and Europe.

129

Finally, in the 19th century when the region was fragmented and in decay, the Imperial Russians moved in to face the British Empire active in India and Afghanistan; contestants in what became known as the Great Game. From Russian rule was spawned the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991 bringing about the five republics we know today.