Energy overflows at planting day

The energy, teamwork and camaraderie at the first community planting day was amazing as a troop of close to 60 volunteers managed to plant and water-in more than 750 shrubs across four plots.

Stunning weather, fresh air and soft soil made for perfect planting conditions as people of all ages hoed into the challenge of restoring a patchy shrub layer in Ginninderra’s Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.

Special mention goes to our youngest planters – the Wells Station Cub-pack who set a fine example of teamwork and commitment to the future biodiversity of our woodlands.

Great coffee and a tasty barbecue lunch added to the enjoyment of the day and the good news is: ‘it’s on again this Sunday’.

We will focus our efforts on a different site of 4.5 hectares close to the Barton Highway near Hall.

If you would like to be part of the planting action on Sunday 28 May please register without delay or by 4pm Friday 26 May at the latest. You can register here or by calling 1300 363 400.

Some of the 60-strong volunteers in the Ginninderra woodlands.


Ecologist Jacqui Stol providing pointers on planting.


Off to plant we go


Cub pack leading the way


The 28 May planting day is on a 4.5 ha site close to the Barton Highway near Hall.

Community helps plant life back into our precious woodlands

In doing their bit to bring back shrubs, birds and other wildlife to the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands of Ginninderra, 60 community volunteer planters joined CSIRO and the Ginninderra Catchment Group today in celebrating the International Day of Biological Diversity, one day early.

The army of residents, Cub Scouts and community planters managed to put in 750 plants consisting of seven shrub species across the nine plots set-up for woodland revegetation at the CSIRO Ginninderra Experiment Station close to Spence.

“It is an amazing effort from community volunteers of all ages,” according to CSIRO Land and Water ecologist and woodland expert, Jacqui Stol.

“The UN International Day of Biological Diversity (22 May) is all about raising understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues and here we had adults, Cub Scouts and children as young as eight, wanting to do something that will really help our woodland environment,” says Stol. “The volunteers planted local native shrub species and learned many interesting things about the woodland environment while they were here.”

“Restoring the shrub layer of the woodlands will help increase the diversity of native plant and animal life and boost the quality of our valuable Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.  And when we restore these woodlands it contributes to a healthy environment for all living things, including us,” says Stol.

Across South-East Australia only 10% of the Box Gum Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands remain, and only about 5% remain in good condition. One of the main aims of the revegetation work, is to bring back birds and other wildlife that have declined in the region.

“Having a number of ‘layers’ of vegetation in the Woodlands provides unique opportunities for native birds, insects, possums, gliders and reptiles to live, forage, nest and take refuge. Replanting a shrub layer, together with restoring native grasses, maintaining fallen logs, mature trees, hollows and nesting sites, will help bring back more of the birds that have retreated along with the decline in area and quality of remnant woodlands.”

The plantings are one of the first initiatives to involve citizens in the science of conserving and restoring more than 200 hectares of the environment, as part of a future sustainable urban estate at CSIRO Ginninderra, to be backed by CSIRO science under a proposed joint venture.

A second community planting day will be held next Sunday (28 May), with places still available. Register at or by calling 1300 363 400.

Fuelling a hydrogen-powered future

It’s colourless, odourless, and the most abundant element in the universe, and it may soon be powering your car.

Hydrogen – it’s a pretty logical choice for a fuel of the future, for the simple reason that, when used in electrochemical reactions to generate energy, it emits only heat and water. So it’s a clean, green option.

While it’s already available in a number of makes and models of fuel-cell vehicles, there are still a few barriers to overcome before hydrogen is widely available and universally used.

One of those barriers is that, despite its great abundance, there’s very little pure hydrogen to be found anywhere on Earth. So we need to produce it in a safe and reliable way, and that’s where CSIRO home-grown innovation comes in.

CSIRO has spent many years researching the best ways to separate pure hydrogen from mixed gas streams.

There are a couple of different ways to produce pure hydrogen – it can be extracted from natural gas, though carbon dioxide is a by-product. There’s also a renewable option through the electrolysis of water, which produces hydrogen and oxygen. Forcing this reaction requires a fair amount of energy which could potentially come from a clean source, like solar.

Then there’s the matter of transporting that pure hydrogen to the places it’s needed, and if we’re planning a hydrogen-powered vehicle revolution, that means every service station! Because of its low density, hydrogen can be difficult to transport and must be pressurised, and then carried by pipeline, tanker or some other secure method.

While hydrogen is already being used around the world, the existing transport infrastructure is not yet cost or energy efficient and therefore not sufficient to support widespread consumer use.

But rest assured there are other options … ammonia for example. Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen that is already transported far and wide for use in industry (as fertiliser, cleaner, etc). What if we could piggyback this existing infrastructure and transport the hydrogen within the ammonia, and then extract the hydrogen from the ammonia at, or near, the point we need it?

CSIRO has been working on ways to separate high-purity hydrogen from ammonia. For this very purpose, we’ve developed a thin metal membrane that allows hydrogen to pass, while blocking all other gases. Decomposed ammonia passes through our membrane, becoming pure hydrogen.

Our membrane means that hydrogen can be transported in the form of ammonia (which is already being traded globally), and then reconverted back to hydrogen at the point of use.

Renewable hydrogen for home and for the world

Our membrane has been welcomed by industry and is supported by BOC Gas, Hyundai, Toyota and Renewable Hydrogen Pty Ltd. The project also recently received $1.7 million from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), which will be matched by us.

So the technology will have benefits for vehicles and transport systems in Australian cities and future developments like Ginninderra. While Australia is a relatively small hydrogen market, the fuel can be distributed to emerging markets in Japan, South Korea and Europe using existing infrastructure.

Thinking big, we could transport Australian-made ammonia around the world so that international fuel cell vehicles could run on our hydrogen. And if we’re creating the hydrogen renewably with solar power, we are essentially exporting Australian sunshine! How’s that for home-grown ingenuity?

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall is excited by the prospect of a growing global market for clean hydrogen, and the potential for a national renewable hydrogen export industry, to benefit Australia.

“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” Dr Marshall said.

“I’m delighted to see strong collaboration and the application of CSIRO know-how to what is a key part of the overall energy mix.”

In addition to our new membrane, we’re looking forward to applying our expertise to all stages of the hydrogen technology chain (including solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, grid management, water electrolysis, ammonia synthesis, direct ammonia utilisation via combustion and/or fuel cells, as well as hydrogen production).

We’re researching all sorts of exciting energy technologies to make sure we can keep the lights on and lower emissions.

Decomposed ammonia passes through CSIRO’s metal membrane to produce pure hydrogen.



Hydrogen is colourless, odourless, and the most abundant element in the universe.

Bringing back the birds

The community planting days are a chance to be part of the effort to entice native woodland birds back to our peri-urban landscape.

There’s something unique and comforting about waking up to the songs of native birds in the Australian bush. In cities like Canberra (the bush capital) where trees and plants abound, residents can still experience native birds in their gardens, and in the city’s parks and reserves.

Birds attract a great following from humankind that is expressed in many different ways. The wide appeal of our ‘feathered friends’ is highlighted by acclaimed naturalist David Attenborough who said: “Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”

Over the past 200 years, the clearing of land and vegetation for agriculture and city developments, has seen many species decline or retreat to areas where their essential habitat remains.

Many of the birds of the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands have undergone significant ‘declines or retreats’ with the disappearance of large areas of their habitat from the landscapes of the ACT, Victoria, NSW and southern QLD.

Across this region, only 10 per cent of the woodlands remain, with only about five per cent of those remaining in good condition. The picture is stronger in the ACT, with an estimated 25 per cent of the original woodland remaining and in good condition.

One aim of the revegetation work at CSIRO Ginninderra, starting with the community planting days in May, is to ‘bring back birds’ to the near urban landscape, according to CSIRO ecologist and woodland expert, Jacqui Stol.

“Even in the bush capital we have a job in front of us to restore the quality of our woodland ecosystems so that we see more of the native birds and other living things thriving in the landscape,” Jacqui says.

“The various layers of vegetation in the woodlands provide unique opportunities for native birds, insects, possums, gliders and reptiles to live, forage, nest and take refuge. These layers include the overstorey, shrub layer and ground layer.”

“A Box-Gum Grassy Woodland in excellent condition includes an overstorey of trees, with a patchy shrub layer and a diverse grassy ground-layer, supporting a variety of fauna and ecological processes.”

Restoring a patchy shrub layer in the woodlands is a key strategy for enhancing the habitat preferred by a range of woodland species that we would like to see back in the landscape, for example:  Jacky Winter, Flame Robin, Willie Wagtail, Eastern Yellow Robin, Red-browed Finch, Restless Flycatcher, White-browed Scrubwren, Superb Fairy Wren, Scarlet Robin, Grey Fantail, Diamond Firetail and Double-barred Finch

The Ginninderra community planting days on Sundays 21 May and 28 May will focus on restoring a patchy shrub layer at two separate sites – one close to Spence in Belconnen and the second close to Hall.

The events run with the support of the Ginninderra Catchment Group will focus on planting seven species across 13 separate plots of 25 m by 25 m. The plants species include: Acacia dealbata, Acacia mearnsii, Acacia parramattensis, Acacia genistifolia, Cassinia longifolia, Bursaria spinosa and Indigofera australis.

CSIRO Ginninderra includes about 114 hectares of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands of varying quality such as at these first two revegetation sites. These Woodlands are part of more than 200 hectares that CSIRO has identified for conservation as a vital contribution to the balance and sustainability of the proposed future urban development.

Regenerating a shrub layer – together with restoring native grasses and maintaining and increasing fallen logs, mature trees, hollows and nesting sites – will help provide better foraging and breeding habitat for many of  the birds that have retreated with the decline in area and quality of remnant woodlands.

“This means that even close to the city and suburbs, we may one day hear more of birds like the Scarlet Robin, Double-barred Finch and White-winged Triller, to name just a few,” Jacqui says.

There’s still time to register to be part of the community planting days and efforts to bring back the birds:

21 May planting day – registration deadline 18 MayHERE

28 May planting day – registration deadline 24 MayHERE

Jacqui Stol with a rare Hooded Robin – a species attracted by shrubby layers in the woodlands.

One of the sites for shrub planting in 25m by 25m plots.

A shrubby understorey in the woodlands.

Diamond Firetail is one of the birds we would like to see more of in the woodlands. Source: J. Robinson and Canberra Ornithologists Group

Scarlet Robin – still found in the larger reserves and woodland remnants around Canberra. Source: S. Bennett and Canberra Ornithologists Group

Project update – May

This month the project team has been busy preparing for the upcoming community planting days at the Ginninderra site.

The planting days, organised with the support of the Ginninderra Catchment Group, are to be held on Sunday 21 May and Sunday 28 May 9.30 registration for 10am-2pm planting.

There will be a free lunch and an introduction to woodland ecology, but more importantly there is a great opportunity to be part of efforts to restore and improve our vital woodland environment.

Early bird registrations for the two events close at midnight on 10 May. All early bird registrations will be in the running for several prize packs from CSIRO that will include the Greening Australian glovebox guide Bringing Back Birds and an author-signed copy of the publication: ‘Jewels in the Landscape – Managing very high conservation value ground-layers in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands’ by CSIRO’s Jacqui Stol and Suzanne Prober.

This month, information was also released on the Little Eagle’s big trek of 3300 kilometres from Canberra to the Northern Territory outback, which has intrigued the ACT collaborators who have been monitoring the adult male bird through satellite tracking.

This is a joint research project undertaken by the ACT Government, University of Canberra, Ginninderry and CSIRO, and is the first time this threatened species has been subject to satellite tracking. This distance was travelled in under three weeks and included flying 500 kilometres in one day, as well as reaching a maximum speed of 55 kilometres per hour.

The story was also covered in the Canberra Times.

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Early birds can catch the prize – register by 10 May for our community planting days

Early bird registrations for the Ginninderra community planting days close at midnight on 10 May.

All early bird registrations will be in the running for several prize packs from CSIRO that will include the Greening Australian glovebox guide ‘Bringing Back Birds’ and an author-signed copy of the publication: ‘Jewels in the Landscape – Managing very high conservation value ground-layers in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands’ by CSIRO’s Jacqui Stol and Suzanne Prober.

Register now at or by calling 1300 363 400.