Isotopic technique pinpoints Burrup rock art age 10/5/2013

Text by GEOFF VIVIAN

TWO Australian National University researchers have used a high-tech isotopic method to estimate the potential age of the Burrup Peninsula’s rock art, based on the rate at which the rock surface erodes.

"Our measurements indicated that some of the surface erosion rates at the Burrup are amongst the lowest in Australia and indeed the world"—Prof Pillans. Image: Paul Williams

“Our measurements indicated that some of the surface erosion rates at the Burrup are amongst the lowest in Australia and indeed the world”—Prof Pillans. Image: Paul Williams

Geologist Professor Brad Pillans and nuclear physicist Professor Keith Fifield employed cosmogenic radionuclide measurements of the isotope beryllium-10 on rock surfaces at the world-famous Pilbara site.
They concluded that the oldest carvings could be 20- 30,000 years old, or even older, which implies they were possibly made when the site was a range of low hills about 100km inland from the glacial-period coastline. Continue reading

Bush burning helps Gouldian finches thrive 18/6/2016

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A formerly “threatened” species has been reclassified “vulnerable” as the birds start to repopulate the East Kimberley.

Photo by Martin Pot

Photo by Martin Pot

Two scientists, Sarah Pryke and Sarah Legge, have worked hard to identify the Gouldian Finches’ ideal habitats and feed, and a third, Alex Watson, is working with Kija Rangers to re-establish them.

The method depends on mimicking the effects of the traditional Aboriginal mosaic burning practices using modern technology.

As the website Science Network WA is now defunct I have reproduced the story here: Continue reading

Broome’s new bush tucker seed bank 16/4/2016

The Kimberley has a new seed bank that will function as a seed shop for bush tucker (Aboriginal food) plants, and for those needing to propogate plants for mine site rehabilitation and gardening. 

Tamara Williams (Nyul Nyul Rangers), Cat Williams (Apace WA), Devena Cox (Nyul Nyul Rangers), Debbie Sibasado (Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers), Kylie Weatherall (Environs Kimberley) and Cissy Tigan (Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers).

Tamara Williams (Nyul Nyul Rangers), Cat Williams (Apace WA), Devena Cox (Nyul Nyul Rangers), Debbie Sibasado (Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers), Kylie Weatherall (Environs Kimberley) and Cissy Tigan (Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers).

It is also intended to be a supplier to high-end restaurants serving Aboriginal food-influenced dishes.

It also has a serious conservation purpose in preserving rare species for ecological renewall.

This may become important when, for example, rare Kimberley vine thickets are destroyed by bushfires.

Science Network [read this story]

Dining remnants point to megafauna’s end 20/2/1016

Australia once had a giant flightless bird – about two metres tall – that lasted just 7,000 years after humans arrived on the continent.

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Photo Courtesy University of Colorado

In North America, stone points have been found embedded in Mastadon skeletons, and Europe has similar evidence of megafauna hunts.

However up until now, it was not clear whether the first Australians preyed on any of the megafaunal birds or animals.

Charred eggshells in the Exmouth-Carnarvon area provide the first evidence that they did.

Science Network [read this story]

Juvenile toad snacks save local goannas 9/01/2016

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Rangers Herbert and Wesley Alberts with Georgia Ward-Fear. Photo courtesy Georgia Ward-Fear

Almost every conceivable measure to stop cane toads advancing into the Kimberley has been tried and failed.

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Click on this image to read the story.

Collecting cane toads and killing them has failed.

Constructing barriers to keep them out of waterholes has failed.

Experiments with lungworm showed the worms were even more harmful to native frogs.

Meanwhile, other researchers have been training larger predators to avoid eating the toxic amphibians.

And strange as it may seem, a future program could involve releasing more toads into the environment, ahead of the invading wave.

Science Network WA [read this story]

This story has been republished in The West Australian, Friday, January 15, 2016.

Recognition for deal ‘architect’ 11/6/2015

Here is a nice local angle on a national story I missed posting last year.

Click on this image to read the story.

Click on this image to read the story.

Albany man Glen Colbung was acknowledged as the architect of a $1.3 billion native title settlement between the Noongar people and the WA Government.

Former South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council CEO Glen Kelly paid tribute to Mr Colbung at the signing of the deal in Perth last June.

Under the arrangement, the state is to pay $50 million into a Noongar futures fund every year for 12 years.

Six Noongar corporations will then be able to draw on the interest for social and economic programs.

Mapping to help preserve Broome’s rare ecology 11/11/2015

While Broome is home to several unique and vulnerable ecosystems, two ecologists say builders and planners could take fairly simple steps to preserve them.

The Minyjuru tree within the restricted Broome PEC, provides a much coveted sweet fruit and traditional Yawuru Mayi (pictured).

The Minyjuru tree within the restricted Broome PEC, provides a much coveted sweet fruit and traditional Yawuru Mayi (pictured).

They have exhaustively mapped the four ecosystems so that making small zoning changes and planning new works and subdivisions around them would be a fairly simple matter most of the time.

Science Network WA [read this story]

Ancient campfires show early population numbers 14/9/2015

RADIO carbon data from prehistoric occupation sites are providing insights into Australia’s fluctuating human population levels tens of thousands of years ago.

ANU archaeologist Alan Williams used radio carbon dating technology to examine charcoal dates from more than 1000 prehistoric campfires and based on this he says populations appear to have increased steadily until 25,000 years ago.

Dr Williams compared these dates with climatic change profiles provided by a recent synthesis of Australia’s palaeoclimate from the OZ-INTIMATE (Australasian INTegration of Ice core, Marine and TErrestial records) project.

Co-author UWA archaeologist Winthrop Professor Peter Veth says Dr Williams’ comparison showed a clear correlation between datasets.

Science Network WA [read this story]