Tag Archive for: Environment

Anthropologist finds her groove making Comfort Bears

Unemployed anthropologist Vickie Hartland has found her groove up-cycling old jeans to create Comfort Bears for people around the globe.

“Making Comfort Bears is my accidental business,” Vickie said when I met up with her at the Cairns Esplanade Markets in June 2017.

“When found myself out of work, I made a bear for my grandson and put a picture on Facebook then suddenly got orders from all over the world.

“My first trade was an upholsterer. I haven’t done it for many years but I’ve gone back to my original skill set.”

jeansVickie said her Comfort Bears were often used as Grief Bears.

“People grieving the loss of loved ones have got something they can cuddle.

“When my brother died, his youngest son started sleepwalking and we’d find him curled up in a wardrobe or under his dad’s clothes until he got a Comfort Bear.

“For years after my sister lost her husband, she still had his pillow and uniform in a zip lock bag so she could still smell him.

“Another lady whose dad had passed away 10 years earlier still had all of his clothes until she got one of my bears and was able to let go.

Vickie said the Comfort Bears were also ideal for children with autism because they liked a sense of everything the same every day.

“While a child sleeps, you can pop the bear in the washing machine and dryer, then take it back into them and the child never knows it’s gone.”

Vickie’s handmade bears are created from old denim jeans to help keep them away from landfill.

“It’s ridiculous how many jeans end up as landfill,” she said.

“We don’t wear jeans all year round and every season people get new jeans and the old ones end up either in op shops or as landfill.”


Orangutans in the spotlight

The plight of Indonesian orangutans and what Australians can do to help their closest primate relatives will be in the spotlight at the USQ Green + Thumbs session at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast.

Coinciding with Threatened Species Day 2015, USQ business student Sophia Fuller of Hervey Bay will talk about her experiences in the Indonesian forests and the work being done there to ensure the orangutans’ survival.

Threatened Species Day is a national day held on September 7 each year to commemorate the death of the last remaining Tasmanian tiger (also known as the thylacine) at Hobart Zoo in 1936.

The event is a time to reflect on what happened in the past and how people can protect threatened species in the future.

Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia statistics show orangutans are an endangered species with an estimated 50,000 left in the wild.

“This large, gentle red ape is one of our closest relatives, sharing 98% of our DNA. The greatest threat to their survival is the destruction of the rainforest.

“Some experts say about 6000 orangutans are disappearing every year and without our collective help orangutans could be extinct in the wild within our lifetime.”

Ms Fuller’s interest in Borneo orangutans began in 2009 when she was still at high school in Brisbane.

“Working through the DeforestACTION centre we focused on the palm oil aspect, spreading the word,” she said.

“Natural forests were being cleared for logging and palm oil plantations. Orangutans can’t live in those plantations – there’s no fruit suitable for them to eat. When the forests have burnt the orangutans either die, get poached, or taken as pets and traded.”

BOS statistics show palm oil accounts for 35% of world edible vegetable oil production.

“About 80% is used as vegetable oil or put in other ingredients. It can be found in many processed foods from ice cream and chocolate to cereals and fruit juice.

“Palm oil is also found in cosmetics and household products including toothpaste, shampoos, makeup and detergents.”

Visiting Borneo’s Orangutan Centre

In 2014 and 2015, Ms Fuller and her fellow students visited the Orangutan Centre in Borneo.

“We saw the clinic where baby orangutans are rescued, rehabilitated and trained to live in the wild,” she said.

“The babies come out once a day to play in the trees. When they reach the next step in their growth, they’re moved to another place and eventually taken about 60km out of the city and released into a protected forest.

“Another protected forest I went to is specifically for research. They’ve got the most current data you can find in Indonesia and they’re doing some amazing things with conservation and reforestation.”

The USQ Green + Thumbs session will also include a talk on Australian Threatened Species.


Are we too reliant on antibiotics?

Human infants were born on forest floors for thousands of years before the advent of sterile hospital theatres yet our race not only survived, it thrived, says University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast Nursing Lecturer Ruth Newby.

Antibiotics: Aliens or Old Friends?

Photos by Rikki-Lee Wrighson.

“Today, human infants born by cesarean section are at a nutritional disadvantage compared to those born naturally,” Mrs Newby said.

“A cesarean-born baby will take longer for its gut to be colonised in the same way as an infant born naturally because it doesn’t get the same ‘bugs’ from the mother.”

Modern society’s excessive reliance on antibiotics and disinfectants will be in the spotlight at the USQ Fraser Coast Open Day on August 2, 2015, when the local scientist and research fellow makes her Future Talks presentation titled Aliens, or old friends?

“Most of us look into the night sky and wonder if there is intelligent life somewhere else in the universe,” Mrs Newby said.

“When we look for aliens in outer space, what we don’t always recognise is that aliens are not only around us in our environment but actually inside us.

“We look at our own planet and think scientists know all about everything on Earth but we are yet to discover the full spectrum of life here.

“Humans are intrinsically reliant on the organisms in our gut to make us healthy, to nourish us, yet we don’t know everything that’s there. We don’t recognize the DNA signature of about 25% of what’s in our gut so it’s a very alien environment.”

Nature’s antibiotics

Mrs Newby said animals also had unidentified life forms inside their bodies.

“Koalas only digest gum leaves because they have microorganisms in their gut that allow them to ferment the leaves and extract the goodness,” she said.

“The microorganisms get there during birth. The babies eat their mothers’ waste to colonise themselves with the ‘bugs’ that allow them to gain nourishment from their environment, enabling them to live.

“Baby koalas separated from their mothers soon after birth are unable to digest gum leaves and die.

“Humans also get a lot of nourishment from the microorganisms that come from the outside environment into our gut.

“In the earliest years of human existence, infants were born on forest floors so they naturally got a good gulp of mum’s ‘bugs’.

“Only now we’re learning how these aliens inside us are intrinsic to our health. We’ve been led to believe all bugs are bad but many bugs are incredibly important.”

The largest part of our immune system is the gut

Mrs Newby said the largest part of the human immune system was in the gut.

“Our immune system is involved in sensing and tolerating the external environment and it needs to learn how to identify what is good and what is concerning.

“If it doesn’t get exposed to the entirety of the outside environment including the ‘bugs’ we get from our mothers during birth, it learns the wrong lessons.”

Who is Ruth Newby?

Mrs Newby is a USQ medical scientist, nursing lecturer and University of Queensland research fellow.

Her PhD project – Feeding Queensland Babies Study – investigates infant feeding attitudes and behaviours among first-time mothers in Queensland.


University a whole new world for cancer survivor

Uncle Greg Eaton is a survivor of lymphatic cancer, open heart surgery and being hit by a train. Now, with an attitude that every day is a bonus, he is embarking on higher education challenges to help save the environment.

The 64-year-old Aboriginal Elder from the Tagalaka people of North Queensland calls the Fraser Coast home and recently graduated from the University of Southern Queensland’s Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program (IHEPP).

The cancer survivor said the six-month IHEPP program served as a stepping stone for him to enrol in the Bachelor of Science (Environment and Sustainability), starting next month.

“Every 10 years I like to do something different and my children (aged 22, 29 and 32 years) have inspired me to start university,” the former Youth Justice program development officer said.

“My son works in civil engineering, one daughter is working for Queensland Health after completing a diploma in childcare, and my youngest daughter has completed a university degree in criminology and graduates in March.

“I also have a cousin who is studying at USQ Toowoomba and urged me to choose this university.”

Cancer survivor not fazed

Taking up tertiary studies at 64 years of age isn’t fazing Uncle Greg who is no stranger to challenges.

“In 1996 when I had open-heart surgery for a triple bypass they found I had lymphatic cancer. They had to fix my heart before I could have chemotherapy.

“I’m now in remission but still have major problems with my spine from an accident in 1975 when I was hit by a train. I was coming home from work in the back of a truck. It was a drizzly afternoon and the driver didn’t see the train coming.”

cancer survivor

USQ’s Leah Jackat (right) congratulates Aboriginal Elder Uncle Greg Eaton on graduating from the IHEPP program.

Step closer to understanding severe storms

More accurately forecasting and warning of impending severe storm events such as the 2011 Toowoomba “inland tsunami” is now a step closer thanks to an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

The grant will fund research by USQ Professor Roger Stone and Dr Shahbaz Mushtaq in collaboration with Monash University’s Dr Stephen Seims who is the CEO of the project. The Suncorp Group has provided strong support for this project.

Professor Stone said the central objective of the research would be to employ a wide range of field observations to better understand the physical processes, synoptic environment and climatology of severe storms and precipitation events across heavily populated regions of Australia.

“We’ll then use these findings to evaluate and improve numerical and computer simulations of such storms, which will improve our ability to forecast and respond to these types of weather events,” Professor Stone said.

Severe storms are poorly understood

He said severe storms are one of the most poorly understood natural hazards in Australia, even though there is a long history of these events causing the profound loss of life and property.

“The storms of southeast Queensland during the summer of 2010-2011 included flash flooding in the Lockyer Valley that claimed more than 20 lives and the overflow at Wivenhoe Dam led to widespread flooding in Brisbane with the economic damage having been estimated to be in excess of $10 billion.

“This research will lead to an improved physical understanding of severe storms over major Australian cities, which in turn will lead to the ability to more accurately forecast and warn people about these weather events.”

Professor Stone said the first phase of the project will develop an objective radar-based climatology of severe storms using the Bureau of Meteorology’s network of Doppler radars.

“We will then extend the analysis of these severe storms to their synoptic-scale precursors and undertake numerical simulations employing the radar observations, as well as other available observations as a means of evaluation.

“This analysis will assess the ability of simulations to accurately predict the location, timing and intensity of severe storms in major metropolitan areas.

“We’ll then explore the sensitivity of these simulations to the physical parameters with the intent of improving their skill.

“A further objective is to employ a wide range of field observations (in-situ cloud microphysics, weather radar, the dual-polarised (CP2) research radar, ground-based and satellite-based) available from the Queensland Cloud Seeding Research Program, the Bureau of Meteorology and elsewhere to better understand the nature of the interaction between precipitation and cloud microphysics.”