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Citizen Science

Our coastal monitoring for Fukushima radionuclides is conducted through our network of InFORMal citizen scientists. Each month, these engaged citizens receive a sampling kit, pictured above,

InFORMal Scientists, Vic Gladish and his student, collecting the November InFORM sample in Bella Bella on Friday the 13th.
InFORMal Scientists, Vic Gladish and his student, collecting the November 2015 InFORM sample in Bella Bella.

and take it to their local shoreline where they fill the 20 L cubitainer with seawater. They record the time, date, and location where the sample was collected, and then ship everything back to the lab at the University of Victoria.

When the kit is received, the seawater is first filtered through a 1 micron ( 1 micron = 10-6 meter) cartridge to remove larger debris and sediments that might be present.

Onset Hobo Datalogger TidbiT Temperature sensor used by InFORM and Our Radioactive Ocean.
Onset Hobo Datalogger TidbiT Temperature sensor used by InFORM and Our Radioactive Ocean.

We remove the TidbiT Temperature sensor (Onset Hobo Data Loggers) and read out the data which tells us the seawater temperature at the time of sampling. A sample is also removed to measure the salinity of the seawater.  Knowing the temperature and salinity of the sample helps us understand something about the history of the seawater and how much it might influenced by river water or runoff from land.  A small amount of non-radioactive cesium is then added to the sample to help us know how well we recover radioactive cesium in the next step.

We then slowly pump (1 milliliter min-1) the sample through a 5 milliliter column of potassium-nickel-hexacyanoferrate resin beads. This resin is specifically designed to be “sticky” for cesium (stable or radioactive) and separates the cesium from other chemical elements in the sample. We use a scale to tell us how much seawater is pumped across the resin. Finally we remove a post resin sample to determine the recovery of cesium by the resin.
The resin column is then sent to the Cornett Lab at the University of Ottawa where it will be analyzed with a process called gamma spectroscopy.

 

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