Sea Star Loss From Our Coast Might Be Mussels Gain

By Jay T. Cullen

Note that the video above was shot on May 8, 2015, set to Debussy’s Clair de Lune, by the YouTube user NorthOlbo who makes wonderful pieces about the British Columbian coast. Check him out.

The purpose of this more visual post is to report on a recent trip my students and I took to a local beach and what we saw there. Botanical Beach is renowned for its tide pools and part of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park here on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada. There are strange conditions currently in the northeast Pacific from the “blob” of warm water related to anomalous winter mixing in 2013-2014 to the widespread disappearance of sea stars owing to wasting disease after infection by virus. Some link these changes in the marine ecosystem to the very low levels of Fukushima derived radioisotope contamination present offshore and recently detected at the shoreline although there is little evidence to support such views nor are such impacts very likely. There is indeed life abundant at Botanical Beach but it is changing. The sea star is a keystone predator whose removal has consequences. The most obvious of these on visiting the beach again was the predominance of California mussels to be found. More about our adventure below the fold. Continue reading

Impressive Marine Biodiversity in Victoria Harbor: But still work to be done to protect it and clean it up

By Jay T. Cullen

The following video was posted by the Hakai Magazine showing marine ecologist and diver Jenn Burt and videographer Grant Callegari venturing below the surface in the inner harbor of Victoria, British Columbia.  There is a significant amount of biodiversity including examples of nudibranchs, shrimp, and algae.  Check it out and check out the Hakai Institute which is dedicated to monitoring, understanding and preserving the marine ecosystem.

BELOW THE SURFACE OF OUR HARBOR from Hakai Magazine on Vimeo.

Status of the Spent Fuel At Fukushima Dai-ichi: How much was released to the environment?

By Jay T. Cullen

The purpose of this post is to answer the question posed in the title by summarizing a recently published peer reviewed study in the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design. The diary is part of an ongoing effort to communicate results from scientific studies aimed at understanding the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns on the environment. The paper by Jäckel compares measured and predicted activities of reactor products 134-Cesium (134Cs half life ~2 years) and 137-Cs (137Cs half life ~30 years) in the reactor cores and spent fuel to measurements in the spent fuel pools (SFPs) of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the site to determine how much spent fuel radiocesium was released after the accident. The comparison indicates that only very minor damage to the spent fuel occurred during the accident and subsequent clearing work such that at most about 1% of the Cs inventory from a single bundle (in Unit 2 SFP) was released to the cooling water. The short answer to the question is that not very much of the spent fuel was released at all and the bulk of releases originated from the reactor fuel in Units 1, 2 and 3 at the time of the accident. This is consistent with the results of measurements made of Fukushima derived radionuclides in air, soil and water worldwide since March 2011. Continue reading

Analysis of Beached Grey Whale in British Columbia for Fukushima Radioisotopes

By Jay T. Cullen

Grey Whale being dissected on Wickaninnish Beach April 23, 2015 (The Whale Centre)

The purpose of this post is to report analyses carried out by the InFORM project on muscle and blubber samples from a grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus), that beached near Tofino, BC on April 20, 2015. The post is the most recent in a series that aims to communicate results of scientific research into the impact of the Fukushima disaster on the environment. With the cooperation of the Ucluelet Aquarium the InFORM project was able to obtain samples of the whales muscle and blubber which were analyzed for the presence of gamma emitting radioisotopes in Health Canada’s laboratories in Ottawa, ON Canada. The gamma radiation spectra were dominated by naturally occurring radioisotopes, primarily Potassium-40 (40K half life 1.25 billion years), and after 24 hours of counting no Fukushima derived Cesium-134 (134Cs half life ~ 2 years), a fingerprint of the disaster in the environment could be detected. The unfortunate demise of the grey whale is very unlikely to have been the result of acute or chronic radiation exposure owing to Fukushima derived radionuclides in seawater and the whales food. Continue reading

Earthquakes rattle West Coast and B.C. Interior

This is a reminder that we all need to be prepared for large earthquakes in British Columbia.  Do you have an earthquake emergency kit and is it up to date?

Earthquakes rattle West Coast and B.C. Interior

6.1 ML quake was felt in Haida Gwaii just before 7 a.m. PT

CBC News

Posted: Apr 24, 2015 7:48 AM PT
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2015 9:10 AM PT

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake has struck British Columbia's north coast. The quake, 167 km southeast of the Village of Queen Charlotte, was felt from Haida Gwaii and along the north coast. There have been no reports of damage or injuries. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake has struck British Columbia’s north coast. The quake, 167 km southeast of the Village of Queen Charlotte, was felt from Haida Gwaii and along the north coast. There have been no reports of damage or injuries. (The Canadian Press)

Two earthquakes rattled British Columbia late Thursday and early Friday morning, but they didn’t cause any damage. The first quake, which measured 4.2 ML, struck just south of the border in Idaho around 10:43 p.m PT Thursday. It was felt in the Kootenay communities of Castlegar and Creston. It was one of three small quakes in the area since Thursday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The second quake, which was measured as 6.1 ML by Earthquakes Canada (M6.2 by the USGS) struck in the ocean just off the southern tip of Haida Gwaii at 6:56 a.m. PT Friday. The quake was felt on Haida Gwaii and along the North Coast, but there was no damage reported and no tsunami warning was issued. The Haida Gwaii earthquake was near the junction of three of the earth’s tectonic plates, where earthquakes are common. As recently as Tuesday, a 3.6 ML earthquake was reported in the same region.

How Much Radioactivity Are We Exposed to While Sampling Seawater for Fukushima Radioisotopes?

By Jay T. Cullen

The purpose of this post is to introduce a brief, informal movie made while using a Geiger Counter in the laboratory today. This diary is part of an ongoing effort to communicate what the scientific community is learning about the impact of the Fukushima disaster on environmental and public health. A Geiger Counter was used to examine ionizing radiation counts per minute in the laboratory owing to background radioactivity, the concentrated natural and man made isotopes in 20 liters of seawater collected by InFORM citizen scientist volunteers, the uranium oxide glaze on a Fiestaware dinner platter and Uraninite ore mined from New Hampshire. This simple demonstration supports more sensitive measurements indicating our citizen scientists are exposed to no more ionizing radiation than is typical of background when collecting seawater samples.

Continue reading

A Quick Look at a Tide Pool at Botanical Beach Near Port Renfrew BC

This is a short video made on April 4, 2015 at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew BC, one of our citizen scientist sampling locations organized by Surfrider Vancouver Island. Botanical Beach is at the north end of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the southwest shore of Vancouver Island.

We arrived on the rising tide when the larger, more impressive tide pools were already submerged but this little pool shows the main types of organisms one can find there.  Almost got our feet wet in the end.

Kelp Watch 2015: Most Recent Results Looking for Fukushima Contamination

By Jay T. Cullen

The Raincoast Education Society has partnered with the University of Victoria and California State University to carry out radionuclide sampling of sea water and kelp, respectively, in Clayoquot Sound.

 The purpose of this post is to report the most recent results of Kelp Watch 2015 , a program dedicated to monitoring for the presence of Fukushima contamination off our Pacific Coast. This post is the latest in a series dedicated to the public dissemination of information about the impacts of the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster on the health of the North Pacific Ocean ecosystem and health of North American residents. New results from the third sampling period (January through March 2015) of Kelp Watch 2015 were released on April 6, 2015 and can be found here. As with previously reported results here, here and here no radioactive isotopes from Fukushima were detected in kelp growing at sampling sites spread along our Pacific coast. The absence of 134Cs in kelp suggests that ocean transport of Fukushima contamination had yet to reach North American coastal water. As the contaminated water reaches the shoreline in the coming months Kelp Watch 2015 will help to track the arrival of the plume in time and space. Continue reading