Sunday, February 23, 2020

New wave of coral bleaching raises concerns for Great Barrier Reef

Given the Greenie lies about the last bleaching  -- Peter Ridd won a court case over his criticisms of them --  this report is fit only to be ignored

Perhaps the most amusing part of the previous scare was when the Federal minister visited the reef to see for herself how bad it was.  She found it looked fine.  We read:  "The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has supported Environment Minister Sussan Ley's appraisal that the reef is "good" and has "a vibrant future"."

They completely walked back their cries of doom.  I guess not all Greenies are crooks but most of them seem to be

Another wave of coral bleaching is hitting the Great Barrier Reef as temperature levels surge above average.

The federal government’s lead reef protection agency on Wednesday discovered significant bleaching on three reefs in the far north of the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem.

“That is the first time we’ve seen significant bleaching so far this summer,” said David Wachenfeld, chief scientist with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

“It is a confirmation of our growing concern about what is happening out on the reef at the moment.” Heat stress that has built up on the far northern, central and southern parts of the reef over the summer has intensified over the last week. “These levels of heat stress are definitely capable of causing coral bleaching and we are now at a heightened level of alertness for what is happening out there in the park,” Dr Wachenfeld said.

A bleaching warning has been issued for large parts of the Torres Strait and far northern management areas of the marine park, where significant bleaching across multiple hot spots is likely.

Most of the area covered by the marine park was 0.5 to 1.5C above average as of February 11, with some central and southern parts being 2 to 3C warmer. “February is the hottest month of the year on the reef so these anomalies are really very concerning,” Dr Wachenfeld said.

The reef authority has been told of bleaching in other areas and is sending staff to survey the damage.

Further heat stress is expected over the next few weeks as temperatures remain high.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

James Cook university crookedness in support of global warming continues

We see now why JCU resisted Peter Ridd's call for validation  of their alarming "dying reef" studies.  Ridd knew that they were fudging the facts but, in good scientific form, did not say exactly that.  He just called for their studies to be validated, where replication is a major form of validation.

JCU illegally fired him for saying that and are still challenging him in the courts.  After one verdict against them, you would think that they would cave in.  But they cannot afford to. Admitting that they had no legal grounds to fire him would open up a whole can of worms about why they DID fire him.

Replication studies are the death of crooked or negligent research and the need for them has come to the fore in recent years after lots of high profile studies in both medicine and psychology have failed careful replication. Much of what we thought we knew was wrong.

So a big replication of some JCU research is of great interest. And the replication was an abject failure.  The JCU results could not be repeated.  Peter Ridd implied that their findings about the reef were nebulous and we now hear that their findings about reef fish were nebulous.  It's a disturbing coincidence.

The chief JCU author on this occasion complains that the replication was not exact but the differences he points to should have been trivial in their effects.  If an effect is real it should emerge in a variety of contexts.  It did not

My best guess about how JCU got their alarming results is that they used much higher levels of acidification than is realistic. Less detectably, they may have manipulated every one of their parameters until they got the result they wanted

Over the past decade, marine scientists published a series of studies warning that humanity’s burgeoning carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could cause yet another devastating problem. They reported that seawater acidified by rising CO2—already known to threaten organisms with carbonate shells and skeletons, such as corals—could also cause profound, alarming changes in the behavior of fish on tropical reefs. The studies, some of which made headlines, found that acidification can disorient fish, make them hyperactive or bolder, alter their vision, and lead them to become attracted to, rather than repelled by, the smell of predators. Such changes, researchers noted, could cause populations to plummet.

But in a Nature paper published today, researchers from Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden challenge a number of those findings. In a major, 3-year effort that studied six fish species, they could not replicate three widely reported behavioral effects of ocean acidification. The replication team notes that many of the original studies came from the same relatively small group of researchers and involved small sample sizes. That and other “methodological or analytical weaknesses” may have led the original studies astray, they argue.

“It’s an exceptionally thorough replication effort,” says Tim Parker, a biologist and an advocate for replication studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Marine scientist Andrew Esbaugh of the University of Texas, Austin, agrees that it’s “excellent, excellent work.”

But marine biologist Philip Munday of James Cook University, Townsville, in Australia, a co-author of most of the papers the Nature study tried to replicate, says there are “fundamental methodological differences” between the original and replication studies. “Replication of results in science is critically important, but this means doing things in the same way, not in vastly different ways,” he wrote in an email.

Munday helped launch research on the behavioral impacts of ocean acidification together with Danielle Dixson, now at the University of Delaware. In 2009, their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) reared in seawater with elevated CO2 levels no longer recognized the chemical cues that could help them find a suitable habitat on the reef. (“Losing Nemo” was a popular headline for stories about the paper.) That study was followed by dozens of others showing similarly striking, and often large, behavioral effects in clownfish and other species, mostly from tropical waters.

Timothy Clark, the first author on the Nature paper and a marine scientist at Deakin University, Geelong, in Australia, says he initially set out to probe the physiological mechanisms behind those behavior changes. But after he failed to reproduce the changes—let alone explain them—he invited other scientists to set up a systematic replication attempt. It focused on three reported effects of acidified waters: making reef fish prone to swim toward their predators’ chemical cues rather than fleeing them, increasing their activity, and altering the fish’s tendency to favor either their left or right sides in some behaviors. The researchers didn’t seek to repeat each previous experiment one for one, but Clark estimates the entire effort covers the research reported in at least 20 studies.

Overall, the group reports, exposing fish to seawater with acidification levels predicted for the end of the century had “negligible” effects on all three behaviors. The Nature paper also reports the results of a statistical analysis called a bootstrapping simulation, designed to calculate the probability that Munday and co-authors could have found the striking data on chemical signal preference presented in seven papers. The authors say the odds are exceedingly low: “0 in 10,000,” as they put it.

Clark declined to elaborate on the implications of the bootstrap finding, but says he “would encourage any other avenues of investigation to find out what has caused the stark differences between our findings and theirs.” Esbaugh calls the bootstrap analysis “a little concerning,” but he objects to the “somewhat nefarious undercurrent” in the Nature paper. “I know both of these research groups,” he says, “and they’re both very, very good.”

Munday stands by his papers and plans to detail many “critically important” differences in the designs of the two sets of experiments in a response to the Nature paper. For instance, he notes the replication group didn’t study clownfish, used different water volumes and experiment durations, and used a different setup to study chemical cue avoidance. Dixson—who presented her findings at a 2015 White House meeting—also says methodological differences make a direct comparison between the studies “inappropriate.” But the Nature authors say some methods had to be adapted because they didn’t work as described in the original papers. They add that they could not catch enough clownfish, so used six other species also used in the previous studies.

Replication studies often cause quibbles about methods, Parker says. But, he argues, “If the original finding is reasonably robust,” then researchers using even somewhat different methods should be able to replicate it. And he notes that the replication team went to great lengths to be transparent. Unlike the original authors, the team released video of each experiment, for example, as well as the bootstrap analysis code. “That level of transparency certainly increases my confidence in this replication,” Parker says.

Researchers say the Nature paper allays one fear about the impact of ocean acidification. But Josefin Sundin of Uppsala University in Sweden, the Nature paper’s last author, stresses that climate change still poses a serious threat to sea life. “If the oceans were as acidic as we have been testing, it would also be much warmer, and that’s a huge issue,” she says.

Although replication efforts have blossomed in psychology, biomedicine, and other fields, they’re still rare in ecology, says biologist Shinichi Nakagawa of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. The new paper “sets a great example,” says Nakagawa, who hopes it “will instigate and inspire more replication studies—not to prove previous results wrong but to make our science more robust and trustworthy.”


The journal abstract

Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes

Timothy D. Clark et al.


The partial pressure of CO2 in the oceans has increased rapidly over the past century, driving ocean acidification and raising concern for the stability of marine ecosystems1,2,3. Coral reef fishes are predicted to be especially susceptible to end-of-century ocean acidification on the basis of several high-profile papers4,5 that have reported profound behavioural and sensory impairments—for example, complete attraction to the chemical cues of predators under conditions of ocean acidification.

Here, we comprehensively and transparently show that—in contrast to previous studies—end-of-century ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes, such as the avoidance of chemical cues from predators, fish activity levels and behavioural lateralization (left–right turning preference).

Using data simulations, we additionally show that the large effect sizes and small within-group variances that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable. Together, our findings indicate that the reported effects of ocean acidification on the behaviour of coral reef fishes are not reproducible, suggesting that behavioural perturbations will not be a major consequence for coral reef fishes in high CO2 oceans.


Note: At roughly the same time as I first put up the above (on Facebook) Peter Ridd himself put up a critique very similar to mine above. Peter also mentions the dodgy work on Lionfish done by Oona Lonnstedt, a PhD student at JCU. Making stuff up would appear to be a major feature of the culture at JCU

Friday, January 3, 2020

Great Barrier Reef truth may be inconvenient but it is out there

PETER RIDD points out where the Australian Institute of Marine Science has got it wrong.  They cannot admit it or it would completely destroy their most trumpeted claims.  Their allies at JCU even fired Ridd to protect their claim of reef damage.  It's now political.  A lot of careers are at risk if Ridd is right

We have no data of Great Barrier Reef coral growth rates for the past 15 years. Has growth collapsed as the Australian Institute of Marine Science claims?

Is the Great Barrier Reef being affected by climate change, the acidification of the ocean, and the pesticides, sediment and fertiliser from farms?

One way to tell is to measure the coral growth rates. Our science institutions claim that coral growth rates collapsed between 1990 and 2005 due to stress from human pollution.

Remarkably, despite having data of coral growth rates for the last few centuries, there is no data for the last 15 years. We don’t know how the GBR has fared since 2005.

Corals have yearly growth rings similar to tree rings. By drilling cores from large corals, scientists can measure the growth rates over the life of the coral.

The yearly rings are roughly 10 millimetres thick so a coral many metres across can be hundreds of years old. In a landmark study, AIMS took cores from more than 300 corals on the GBR and concluded that for the past 300 years coral growth was stable, but in 1990 there was an unprecedented and dramatic collapse of 15 per cent.

With Thomas Stieglitz and Eduardo da Silva, I reanalysed the AIMS data and, in our opinion, AIMS made two significant mistakes.

The first was incorrect measurement of the near-surface coral growth rings on most of the corals that were giving data from 1990 to 2005. After years of argument AIMS has begrudgingly agreed that it made this mistake. The other problem is that it used much smaller and younger corals for the 1990-2005 data compared with the mostly very large and old corals of the pre-1990 data — it changed its methodology and this is what caused the apparent drop at 1990. When we corrected this problem, the fall in growth rate disappeared.

AIMS continues to dispute this second error and still claims there was a worrying reduction in growth rate from 1990 to 2005. This disputed work is quoted in influential government documents such as last year’s reef outlook report. I am not cherrypicking a minor problem. It is a fundamental problem with a keystone piece of GBR science.

We thus have a situation that arguably the most important data that tells us about the health of the GBR is highly questionable from 1990 to 2005.

What is far worse is that we have no data since 2005.

The science institutions have not only failed to investigate probable major errors in their work, they have also failed to update measurement of this fundamental parameter while claiming, in increasingly shrill tones, that the GBR is in peril.

But ironically, this failure provides a fantastic opportunity

The coral challenge.

For the past 15 years we don’t know what growth rates have been. It is easy to fill in the missing data, and check the previous data, by taking more cores from the reef. AIMS has effectively stated that coral growth is falling at 1 per cent a year.

According to the AIMS curve, growth should now be 30 per cent lower than it was in 1990 — which would be a disastrous fall. I predict it has stayed the same. Either way, it would be nice to know what has happened — is the reef really in danger or not?

But a second and almost equally valuable outcome of measuring the missing data is that it will be an acid test of the trustworthiness of our major science institutions. AIMS has dug in its heels and denied it made a major methodological mistake. Let’s do the experiment and see if it is right, or untrustworthy.

Same for me. If this measurement is done, and done properly, and it shows there has been a major reduction in coral growth rates, I will accept I was wrong and that there is a disaster happening on the reef.

The coral challenge is a measurement that will have to be done sooner or later. The longer it is neglected the worse it will look to the public. Farmers accused of killing the reef are especially interested.

We need to make sure these new measurements are done properly and without any questions about reliability. They must be supervised by a group of scientists that are acceptable to both sides of the agricultural debate on the reef to ensure the methodology and its execution are impeccable.


Friday, December 6, 2019

ABC ridicules sound science about the Great Barrier Reef

Media Watch is everything that is wrong with the ABC, squeezed into 15 insufferable minutes. Smug, elitist and, above all, awash with the misguided idea that commercial media outlets are not to be trusted and that the only place where honest news can be found is in Aunty’s warm, state-sponsored embrace.

The program is usually best ignored, but its segment this week on the saga of Peter Ridd is worth calling out for its breathless hypocrisy.

For the uninitiated, Ridd is a marine geophysicist who, until recently, was professor of physics at James Cook University in Townsville. Ridd is also an expert on the Great Barrier Reef and disputes the view that it is being killed by climate change.

Earlier this year the Federal Circuit Court found that his dismissal was unlawful.

Fast forward to this week’s Media Watch in which host Paul Barry spent a fair chunk of taxpayer-funded time bemoaning the attention from The Australian and other outlets to Ridd’s perspective on reef science.

The coverage, according to Barry, was “a real free kick" and “a free platform, with no opposing viewpoints".

That the ABC could complain about a lack of opposing viewpoints is staggering.

When it comes to climate change in particular, the ABC is hopelessly predisposed towards climate alarmism. That may explain why up until Monday night, the ABC has shown less interest in the Ridd affair.

Ridd’s sacking, legal appeal and eventual victory in court attracted such strong public interest that eventually even the federal Attorney-General weighed in when the subject was raised by numerous colleagues in a recent partyroom meeting. But coverage from our “trusted" public broadcaster?

Not much. A search of the ABC’s website returns just a handful of reports on what was the most significant case on academic freedom in many years.

If the ABC had bothered, they would know that Ridd’s beef isn’t just with popular notions of doom and gloom surrounding the Great Barrier Reef but also with the quality of the underlying science.

Much of it, according to Ridd, is not being properly checked, tested or replicated.

As a result, governments are spending billions of dollars and jeopardising whole industries to “save" the reef when it probably doesn’t need saving.

It should be noted as well that throughout the extensive disciplinary process against Ridd, James Cook University never once addressed his complaints about the poor quality of climate science coming out of the univer­sity, a fact highlighted by the judge himself during Ridd’s case.

But far be it for the ABC to let poor science get in the way of a good story. Naturally, the segment included an article from The Guardian citing a handful of scientists who are adamant the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble and that Ridd should be ignored.

Media Watch even repeated hysterical comparisons between Ridd’s research and anti-vaxxer campaigns.

Interestingly, one scientist cited by the ABC was Terry ­Hughes. Like Ridd, Hughes is based at James Cook, and arguably triggered the whole saga when, according to court documents, he lodged a complaint about some relatively mild comments Ridd made in relation to reef science on Sky News. This connection was apparently missed by the Media Watch team.

What the ABC doesn’t understand is that the Ridd saga is about much more than the Great Barrier Reef or even climate science.

It raises serious questions about academic freedom, about the right of a university professor to voice dissenting views without being hounded out of his tenure, as Ridd was by James Cook.

This is why Ridd was supported by a large section of the community. Many of his university colleagues defended him and one resigned in disgust.

He even received support from the National Tertiary Education Union — not exactly a bastion of right-wing views. But of course, on the ABC, all of that complexity is lost, reduced to a tired pantomime about right-wing commentators pushing the views of one scientist to advance their own murky climate agenda.

Now, if the ABC were a private organisation it could take whatever editorial line it wanted — and would be far from the only outlet in Australia to sympathise with climate evangelism. But the ABC receives $1.1 billion of our money each year for news coverage that, by law, must be balanced.

Maybe the ABC should comply with its charter and make way for alternative views rather than taking juvenile pot shots at its rivals.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Great Barrier Reef is not dead ... long live the reef

By Sussan Ley (Sussan Ley is the Australian federal Minister for the Environment)

A fortnight ago I was on the reef, not with climate sceptics but with scientists, the country’s lead reef agencies, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science and accredited master reef guides.

Their advice was clear: the Reef isn’t dead. It has vast areas of vibrant coral and teeming sea life, just as it has areas that have been damaged by coral bleaching, illegal fishing and crown of thorns outbreaks.

To help the reef, its wildlife and the 64,000 jobs it supports, we need to recognise both realities.

There are those who will not be happy unless we declare the reef dead in the name of climate change, just as there are those who want to claim that nothing out of the ordinary is taking place. As a minister who respects the science, who has consulted over many weeks with reef experts from the park authority, the Institute of Marine Science and the innovative Great Barrier Reef Foundation, I do not subscribe to either position.

We have the best managed reef ecosystem in the world. We have a massive job to do in protecting its future and we are getting on with that job.

The Great Barrier Reef covers some 346,000 square kilometres and the tourism experience you will find snorkelling from Cairns and other locations such as  the Whitsundays remains awe-inspiring.  The reef is showing us that it has the capacity to regenerate from impacts such as cyclones, bleaching and crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.

But it also faces enormous challenges if we do not take action. Reducing threats from rising sea temperatures, poor water quality and crown of thorns outbreaks are critical in protecting its future.

I trust the scientists who tell me that climate change is the biggest single threat to the reef, just as I trust those who tell me of the things we can do, and are doing, to make the reef more resilient.

The Morrison government is taking meaningful action to reduce global emissions. The $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package will deliver the 328 million tonnes of abatement needed to meet our 2030 Paris target.

From an environment perspective, my focus is on the things we can do on the reef and in its catchment, from the work with farmers addressing water quality to the protection of marine park areas, the control of crown of thorns starfish, collaboration with local communities and traditional owners, and the investment in new technology to improve coral spawning success and adaptation to warmer environments.

The federal government is investing $1.2billion in the reef, including $443 million through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which will in turn attract significant private-sector investment in innovative reef protection partnerships. Already there are some significant gains in terms of crown of thorns control, partnerships with landholders and increased marine park compliance and surveillance.

The full benefit of many investments and management strategies already under way in the park are still to be realised through our monitoring systems.

We need to continue to accelerate our actions in these areas, as well as invest in steps to reduce plastic and waste in our waterways.

The Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Plan – endorsed by the United Nations World Heritage Committee – is a world-leading strategy for a marine protected area. I hope to see it gain more momentum as we work in partnership with all tiers of government, the private sector, NGOs, traditional owners and the wider community.

The Australian and Queensland governments are investing $2 billion in the future of the reef, working with many partners including independent scientific panels, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the CSIRO.

Our investment in innovation through the foundation has enormous potential to deliver forward-looking conservation projects for the reef, with significant scope for private sector partnerships.

This is anything but a head-in-the-sand approach and it is in stark contrast to those who would rather rush to declare the reef dead than look at the steps we can take – and are taking – to preserve it into the future.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Marine heatwaves threatening Australia's oyster industry and affecting Great Barrier Reef, scientists warn

Note the dog that didn't bark below.  The people involved are NOT barking about global warming.  They cannot logically do so.  If waters are warming much more rapidly than the global rate, it is not global warming!  Sometimes a tautology is needed

Waters off parts of Australia are warming at some of the most rapid rates in the world, threatening the future of some of the country's most important marine industries, scientists say.

Scientists say the heatwaves are having a severe impact on oysters — and threaten the future of the industry — as well plants and creatures that rely on the ocean for life, pushing some into new areas, while killing others.

"The oceans are really ringing the alarm bells," said CSIRO biological oceanographer Alistair Hobday, a leading expert on MHWs.

"[The oceans] are telling us we've got big problems and those problems are not going to go away."

A MHW is defined as a period of warm water that lasts five days or longer, where temperatures are in the top 10 per cent of events typically experienced in that region.

They are graded in severity — similar to how cyclones are — with category five being the most intense.

The heatwaves lead to outbreaks of diseases that can be fatal to oysters and other molluscs, and reduce the reproduction rates of species such as salmon and abalone as well as killing seagrass and kelp.

"[We thought] marine heatwaves were an example of what the climate would look like in 100 years time," Dr Hobday said. "But we [are] getting it today."


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Great Barrier Reef has 'vibrant future', authority agrees

They are walking back their Greenie gloom

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has supported Environment Minister Sussan Ley's appraisal that the reef is "good" and has "a vibrant future". A Senate estimates committee hearing on Monday heard a downgrading of the reef condition from poor to very poor was a long-term forecast based on no action being taken on climate change.

GBRMPA chief executive Joshua Thomas said the out-look report was an assessment of the likely condition of the reef if a series of issues were not addressed. These included reducing global greenhouse gas emissions along with improving reef water quality, better marine park compliance, controlling crown of thorns starfish and reducing marine debris.

"The reef is a vast estate and many areas remain vibrant and ecologically robust," he said. "It continuo to be an extraordinary experience for visitors to the region, supporting beautiful corals and abundant marine life."

After her first visit to the reef as minister, Ms Ley said: "It gives me great heart and hope that the future of this magnificent part of the world is a good one." She said at the time the reef
was not dead, was not dying and not even on life support.

"Today we saw coral that was struggling but we also saw coral that was coming back, that was growing, that was vibrant"

Mr Thomas said Ms Ley had been "referring to the fact there are many areas, of the reef that remain vibrant and worth visiting and we support that statement". "It is also true that the reef over the past five years has been subjected to unprecedented changes, including those bleaching events in 2016-177 he added.

The authority's chief scientist, David Wachenfeld, told Senate estimates the outlook report was evidence-based. He said the downgrade from poor to very poor was the long-term outlook for the reef that was largely a consideration of the impacts of climate change on current green-house gas emissions trajectories.

From "the Australian" of 22 Oct., 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Climate-sceptic academic seeks $1.5m in donations to fight unlawful dismissal appeal

The climate-sceptic academic Peter Ridd has asked supporters to donate another $1.5m to fund ongoing legal costs after his former employer, James Cook University, lodged an appeal against an unlawful dismissal ruling.

This month the federal court awarded Ridd $1.2m in compensation. The court has made clear its finding related to Ridd’s employment rights and not his academic freedom.

After JCU lodged its appeal and most of the compensation payout was ordered to be quarantined in a trust account, Ridd relaunched a public fundraising site for his legal costs.

The site has collected more than $350,000 in total public donations, including about $100,000 in the past 24 hours.

In recent months Ridd has held a speaking tour, promoted by agricultural groups, that supported their campaign against new Great Barrier Reef pollution regulations. Ridd has personally promoted their cause and joined lobbying efforts.

In a statement soliciting donations, Ridd cites his position on the reef issue – which disputes the scientific consensus and has been compared with the strategy used by the tobacco industry to raise doubt about the impact of smoking – as a “point of principle we must fight for".

“JCU will use its infinite financial resources – effectively government money – to appeal," Ridd said.

He said donations would “send a powerful message to governments about what the public expect of our universities".

The court last week put a stay on the compensation payout. JCU is required pay more than $1.2m into a trust administered by Ridd’s lawyer. Of that money $1m will be quarantined and $215,000 made available for Ridd’s legal costs.

In April federal circuit court judge Salvatore Vasta found the actions of the university, including Ridd’s repeated censure and ultimate dismissal, were unlawful.

Vasta made clear the case was about employment law and not – as Ridd, his supporters and conservative media outlets have repeatedly stated – about academic freedom.

“Some have thought that this trial was about freedom of speech and intellectual freedom," Vasta said. “Media reports have considered that this trial was about silencing persons with controversial or unpopular views.

“Rather, this trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement."

JCU’s appeal argues there are “errors of law" in the judgments.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Coral death knell on Great Barrier reef 'exaggerated'

The Greenie crooks photographed the few bad bits of coral and ignored large undamaged areas nearby.  And note this is about a close-in reef, which the Greenies squeal loudest about

The death of inshore corals near Bowen had been greatly exaggerated, according to the findings of a rebel quality assurance survey by reef-science outsiders Peter Ridd and Jennifer Marohasy.

The shallow reef flats of Stone Island have played a key role in divisions over the health of the inshore Great Barrier Reef and the impact of run-off from agriculture.

Dr Ridd was disciplined for attempting to blow the whistle on the widespread use of before and after pictures, taken a century apart, near Stone Island that suggested coral cover had disappeared.

A follow-up paper by Queensland University reef scientist Tara Clark, co-authored by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chief scientist David Wachenfeld, confirmed the coral loss.

Despite winning his unfair dismissal case against JCU and being yesterday awarded more than $1.2m by the Federal Court, D. Ridd has effectively dismissed as a crank. by the other scientists.

An expert panel last month accused him of spreading scientific misinformation like tobacco lobbyists and anti-vaccination campaigners.

But Dr Ridd and Dr Marohasy have spent the past two weeks documenting the corals around Stone Island, which they found were still very much alive. The in-the-water quality assurance snapshot of onshore corals near Bowen and the Whitsundays has been partly funded by the Institute of Public Affairs.

The hundreds of hours of aerial and aquatic footage will be archived and some of this made into a documentary. Dr Marohasy and Dr Ridd repeated the transects used in the Clark research which found there had been a serious deline in reef health from historical photographs in the late 19th century to the present.

Dr Marohasy said if the transects used in the Clark analysis had been extended by 30m to the south of Stone Island they would have found a different story.. "I saw and photographed large pink plate coral on August 25 — some more than lm in diameter — at the reef edge, where Tara Clark and colleagues ended their transect as published in Nature," Dr Marohasy said. Several hundred metres away, across the headland, in the northern-facing bay, was an area of 100 per cent coral cover stretching over 25ha.

Dr Ridd said the finding of the survey was that there was "good coral all over the place" around Stone Island. "What we saw was not consistent with the proposition that the inshore reefs have been destroyed by farm run-off," Dr Ridd said.

He said the findings were at odds to those of Dr Clark and her team. The survey results follow a report by GBRMPA last week that downgraded the long-term outlook for the reef from poor-to very poor with particular concern about run-off in onshore reef areas.

Dr Ridd said there were "lots of people around Bowen who get very angry when people say all their coral is wiped out". "How would people in Sydney feel if everybody was saying that the water in Sydney Harbour has turned brown from pollution, the bridge was rusting scrap and the Opera House was crumbling ruin," he said.

Dr Wachenfeid said it was always great to see evidence of healthy coral in inshore areas. "The body of published science tells us most of our inshore reefs are extensively degraded," he said. 'When we find healthy patches that's good news."

Dr Wachenfeld said a paper published in 2016 contained infor-mation about coral around Stone Island and nearby Middle Reef.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Professor Ridd awarded $1.2m for unlawful sacking

The Federal Circuit Court has awarded Peter Ridd $1.2 million in damages and penalties after earlier finding James Cook University (JCU) acted unlawfully in sacking the physics professor.

Dr Ridd was sacked last year after he repeatedly questioned colleagues' research on the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef, criticising it as untrustworthy and "misleading".

The court, which in April found his dismissal was unlawful, on Friday said Dr Ridd would now be seen as "damaged goods" and the university had "poisoned the well".

Outlining his final declarations and penalties, Judge Salvatore Vasta also suggested the university's conduct bordered on "paranoia and hysteria fuelled by systemic vindictiveness" and Dr Ridd must have felt he was being persecuted. He found Dr Ridd's intellectual freedom had been undermined by the "myopic and unjustified actions of his lifelong employer".

"In this case, Professor Ridd has endured over three years of unfair treatment by JCU – an academic institution that failed to respect the rights to intellectual freedom that Professor Ridd had as per [his enterprise agreement]," the judge decided.

The case has attracted intense focus due to Dr Ridd's scepticism about climate change science and the broader debate about free speech at Australian universities.

Judge Vasta said Dr Ridd had suffered a loss of income and agreed with the academic's view that "most big institutions don't want a bar of somebody who has been through my sort of controversy".

He said Dr Ridd would face difficulty securing employment "despite his considerable expertise", finding the problem had been exacerbated by a statement released by the university following the court's initial judgment.

Judge Vasta ordered a payment of $1.09 million in damages and compensation for lost wages and superannuation. This sum is provisional, with the university and Dr Ridd able to contest the calculation. Another $125,000 is to be paid to Dr Ridd as a penalty to "deter both this university and any other employer from dismissing an employee for exercising basic workplace rights".

Dr Ridd had originally sought reinstatement to his position but subsequently abandoned that request in favour of compensation.

On Friday, the university reiterated its intent to appeal Judge Vasta's decision. "The university has previously made clear its intention to appeal His Honour's decision in this matter. As a litigant it is entitled to do so. The university's position will be addressed in its appeal," a spokesman said.

The institution has maintained Dr Ridd was not sacked for expressing scientific views but rather his treatment of colleagues and breaches of confidentiality.

Conservative think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs welcomed Judge Vasta's findings, calling the university's conduct "shameful" and proof of a free speech crisis in academia.

"The sum awarded reflects the appalling nature of JCU's treatment of Dr Ridd and vindicates Peter Ridd's fight for academic freedom, free speech and integrity of climate science and peer review," IPA director of policy Gideon Rozner said.

"James Cook University must now rethink its stated plans to prolong this ugly dispute by appealing the decision. Dr Ridd won this case on all 17 counts. It is time for JCU to accept the decision and move on."