14 Aug 2015

Citizen Scientists Sampling Seawater Radiation

By Paula Johanson

If you've ever worried whether radiation from Fukushima after the tsunami in 2011 might be washing up in the ocean along Canada's west coast, there is a website for you at Fukushima inFORM. And the news is good!

There are trained scientists monitoring seawater samples from offshore, and test samples from marine life. They're working together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and with Health Canada. As well, citizen scientists assist with collecting water samples at several places along the shoreline. The samples are processed by the Fukushima inFORM team of scientists at the University of Victoria, and their partners across Canada and the USA.

Regular updates from Fukushima inFORM show that they are looking for two radioactive elements in particular, Cesium 134 and Cesium 137. Their test results so far show that while they are able to find in the samples small traces of Cesium 137 radiation from Chernobyl and from the nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, they are not finding any from Fukushima. Also, they are not finding any Cesium 134 radiation from Fukushima, which has a much shorter half-life than 137. This is very good news.

Citizen scientists are a valuable part of the sampling process. These ordinary people are trained by a scientist to gather seawater samples for testing. Many of these people bring their friends or grandchildren along when collecting seawater samples. It's a good way to be part of the process of monitoring our environment!

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