Column – Science Media Centre
Tropical cyclone Lusi is heading towards New Zealand and expected to bring heavy rain, high winds and storm surges.SMC Heads-Up: Cyclone Lusi, SMC Fellowship, freshwater science launch
Issue 270 14-20 March 2014
Country braces for Cyclone Lusi
Tropical cyclone Lusi is heading towards New Zealand and expected to bring heavy rain, high winds and storm surges.
MetService has issued severe weather warnings for most of the North Island and Upper South island, forecasting that the category 2 tropical cyclone will hit northern New Zealand on Saturday or early Sunday, and then to track southwards over central New Zealand before moving out to sea east of the South Island on Monday.
“The heavy rain is likely to cause slips and surface flooding, and the severe easterly gales could make driving hazardous, lift roofs, and bring down trees and powerlines,” warnsMetService.
MetService weather ambassador Dan Corbett, speaking to the New Zealand Herald, said, “It’s looking like quite a mean and ugly storm.”
Lusi has already wrecked havoc in Vanuatu,with three people killed by the cyclone and damage to crops widespread, according to the island’s Disaster Management Office.
Here in New Zealand, Civil Defence has issued an alert on the stormy weather, and reiterated their advice on staying safe in such conditions.
Updates on Cyclone Lusi will be posted to the MetService blog and useful background information on tropical cyclones in New Zealand can be found on the NIWA website. NIWA meteorologists will be on hand to take media queries over the weekend – contact the SMC for more details.
On the science radar this week…
The SMC hosted some of the country’s leading climate scientists this week at a media briefing looking ahead to theMarch 31 launch of the next round of IPCC climate change reports.
The next installments in the Assessment Report 5 will focus on risks and impact of climate change on a regional as well as global scale, including specific impacts in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific (WGII); and options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions (WGIII).
You can listen back to the preview, which outlined the process behind the reports and key areas likely to be of interest, byclicking here.
The IPCC report comes out of embargo at 1pm on March 31st, to coincide with a press conference held in Yokohama, where scientists, policy makers and diplomats will be meeting to finalise the report text.
The SMC will be rounding up reaction from scientists to coincide with the IPCC event at the end of the month. Contact the SMC for further details.
“It is unfortunate that measles is still so common… It could have been eliminated by now in the same way as smallpox and polio – by large-scale vaccination.”
Editorial on vaccination.
SMC’s new Science Journalism Fellow
The SMC is spearheading an effort to assist people with a science background pursue a career in journalism offering a Science Journalism Fellowship worth up to $5,000.
The inaugural SMC Fellow is Pippa Grierson, who completed a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Anatomy in 2012 and went on to research and help develop new lines of pet food supplements for Lowe Products.
Pippa has also spent a lot of time in classrooms communicating science as a student mentor for the Royal Society of New Zealand. She is currently undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Communication Studies majoring in journalism at AUT University.
The SMC will be working with Pippa closely during the year as she develops her reporting skills and purses her interest in science journalism. Read the Q&A with Pippa below to find out more about what drives her interest in science and journalism.
The SMC Fellowship assists towards paying course fees ($3,000) for a student and offers mentorship. An additional $2,000 is up for grabs if the student secures a fulltime job with a mainstream media outlet. The Fellowship is possible thanks to former journalist Alan Knowles and colleagues in the now-defunct Association of Science and Technology Communicators, a group that was active in the 1990s and has committed its remaining project to this ongoing venture.
More details about the Fellowship can be found here.
SMC: What is your favourite area of science, the one you love reading and writing about the most?
PG: I love the biological sciences. Neuroscience and anatomy in particular. I love learning things about the human body and how it works, also how it malfunctions and how we can problem solve to fix it.
SMC: You’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms helping kids with science experiments. What is the key to getting kids interested in science so that they carry on with it throughout their education?
PG: I think the key to fostering interest is showing them how they can have a future in science and where it can go. It’s showing them the interesting side of science, and teaching them to question everything they see, and nurture their curiosity.
SMC: What would be your ultimate dream job in the media?
PG: My ultimate dream job in the media would have to be in broadcasting, particularly with a show that was educational and interesting for people of all ages and made them aware of science, politics and other major issues in our country.
SMC: What are the big science-related issues facing New Zealand?
PG: The main issues I think is a lack of funding and emphasis on how important science is to New Zealand. We are known to be outstanding innovators, but unfortunately the money isn’t going into the science fields. There are very few jobs for science graduates, and as a result those who are great at science have no choice but to take their research overseas.
SMC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
PG: In five years time I can see myself working in investigative broadcast journalism or as a foreign affairs or regional news reporter.
Major freshwater web portal to launch
Want to know what how much nitrogen is in your local river or to report cows wandering through a stream?
The new Land Air Water Aotearoa project will combine a science-based snapshot of the country’s waterways and let communities upload reports and photos related to water quality in their area.
LAWA is a collaboration between Regional Councils, the Cawthron Institute, the Ministry for the Environment and Massey University with funding from the Tindall Foundation.
It involves collating and displaying graphically data from 1100 monitoring stations around the country, breaking down the data to cover things like bacteria, clarity, phosphorus and nitrogen levels.
The site, which will be launched in Wellington on Tuesday, has had input from hundreds of scientists and will be updated regularly as new data is collected from monitoring stations.
Its graphical interface and elements of citizen science are designed to engage the public and with water quality one of the hottest environment-related topics on the news agenda, it will likely prove a hugely valuable resource for journalists too.
Contact Caroline Rowe for more details 021 0838 7049
Policy news and developments
Youth smoking: The latest ASH Year 10 Survey results show a continual decline in youth smoking, welcomed by the government.
MPI charges: The Ministry for Primary Industries has filed four charges against Fonterra over the whey protein incident.
Hepatitis A concern: MPI Has issued a statement outlining a possible contamination of fruit by a Hep A infected worker in a pack-house.
New From the SMC
Fukushima: Three years after the Fukushima incident, Japanese experts reflect on progress in cleaning up and the lessons learned.
Science advice: Writing in Nature, Sir Peter Gluckman gives his ten principles for dealing with science and government.
Climate report: Ahead of the IPCC’s second and third ‘AR5’ reports, due in late March and April, the SMC held a briefing with NZ climate experts.
Some of the highlights from this week’s Sciblogs posts:
Science communication as TV spectacle – Peter Griffin gives his take on the reboot of classic science show Cosmos.
The dangerous economic ideas acquired by conservationists– Brendan Moyle sets straight some important misconceptions about the wildlife products market.
Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings
What makes something show on radar? How does a large passenger jet simply disappear from radar without trace? Marcus Wilson applies a bit of physics to the question.
Some of the research papers making headlines this week.
Volcanoes help shelter life from the cold: A study of Antarctic regions has found higher biodiversity in or near geothermal areas than in other regions, particularly for plants such as mosses. For plants, fungi, and invertebrate animals, diversity decreased with distance from geothermal areas, suggesting that these warm geothermal ‘hotspots’ have maintained life through freezing glacial periods, with some species moving out to colonize new ice-free land in warm periods, according to the authors.
Girls born small at greater risk of fertility problems: Girls born unexpectedly small or underweight seem to be twice as likely to have fertility problems in adulthood as those of normal size at birth, suggests a new Swedish study of over 1200 couples with fertility problems. However, as this is the first research of its kind, further studies will be needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, the authors caution.
Orange light helps you think: People who performed a task one hour after exposure to light in the orange-red spectrum have greater brain activity in the frontal lobe – the area involved in higher level thought. The research suggests that exposure to long wavelength light may improve cognitive performance.
Salt removing drug mean no diet change: A new drug called tenapanor may help control sodium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, without requiring any actual change in diet. The drug could help patients with kidney disease, diabetes and other conditions where damage to the kidney’s affect their ability to eliminate excess salt.
Science Translational Medicine
Dingo poisoning affects wider ecosystem: Poisoning of dingoes — the top predators in the Australian bush — has a deleterious effect on small native mammals such as marsupial mice, bandicoots and native rodents, a new study shows. Loss of dingoes is associated with greater activity by foxes, which prey on the small mammals. As well, the number of kangaroos and wallabies increases and their grazing reduces the density of the understorey vegetation leaving smaller mammals more exposed to predators.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC’s Events Calendar.
• Forest Wood 2014 – Forestry conference – 19 March, Wellington.
• Pain: A public health problem – New Zealand Pain Society Conference 2014 – 20-22, Dunedin.