Our Changing World
Thursday 7 April 2011, with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna
On This Programme
Restoring Matiu/Somes Island
Department of Conservation ranger Peter Russell (above right) has a vision - to turn 24-hectare Matiu/Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour into a perfect native forest ecosystem, one that is a snapshot of local pre-human vegetation. The Lower Hutt Branch of Forest and Bird kick-started the process when they grew and planted more than 100,000 native plants on the island during the 1980s and 1990s. When they began planting the island was essentially a grass-covered farm, with a few native plants clinging to inaccessible cliffs. Today the plantings are thriving, but in their midst are native species that are out of their natural range, pohutukawa and karo, for instance, which are both northern North Island species. It is these interlopers, as well as more obvious exotic weeds such as boxthorn and barberry, that weed-buster Peter Russell has in his sights as he crawls across the island on his hands and knees. He gives Alison Ballance a tour of the island to share his thoughts on what plants constitute weeds, and why he believes it's important that neighbours on the adjacent mainland manage weeds to prevent them reaching the island. Part two of this story plays next week.
IRL's Robert Valkenburg has developed a prototype scanner which uses a laser to image 3D scenes and objects in real time.
The head of the scanner is about the size of a chain saw, and is connected with leads to a trolley where equipment combines the information received in real time. LED lights are positioned around the object or scene so the scanner can be located in space. The scanner is mobile, and renders photo realistic 3D images. It can be used for scanning structures for as-built surveying, such as the inside of boats; objects, such as museum artifacts, and people. For a demonstration of the scanner, Ruth Beran visits IRL in Parnell, Auckland. To see the scanner in action click here or here.
Robert Valkenburg (right) and Terry Palmer (left) using the 3D scene scanner (image: IRL)
Antarctica's Dry Valleys
Glaciers in the southern Dry Valleys, and Jonathan Banks with a mummified crabeater seal (images: A. Ballance)
The Dry Valleys of Antarctica run between the eastern flank of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and the Ross Sea. They are surrounded by ice, yet they are just bare rock - so dry for most of the year, that any snow that falls is 'sucked' into the air, through a process known as sublimation. For just a few brief weeks in mid-summer temperatures rise sufficiently to melt the glaciers, creating melt-water streams and lakes. This moisture is enough to allow terrestrial plants such as mosses and lichens, and invertebrates such as springtails and mites to live here, along with an abundance of soil microbes.
The Keyhole, and Mark Quigley with a boulder showing chatter marks formed by glacial ice. (images: A. Ballance)
Alison Ballance made a flying visit into the southern Dry Valleys to meet a multi-disciplinary team gathering data to feed into a complete ecosystem model to predict the distribution of terrestrial life. The team comprised spatial analyst Lars Brabyn, fellow Waikato University microbiologists Jonathan Banks and Ingrid Richter, and Canterbury University geologists Kurt Joy, Mark Quigley and Gregory de Pascale.
Crustose lichens in the Dry Valleys, and Kurt Joy with a cyanobacterial mat (images: A. Ballance)
Copepods in Antarctica
A joint NZ-US research team working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys has discovered an active population of freshwater copepods under a five-metre blanket of ice that covers Lake Joyce. Breeding adults of these small crustaceans have never been seen this far south, and NIWA scientist Ian Hawes says the new colony is 2000km from the nearest known other copepods. Find out more here [PDF] or listen to an earlier interview with Ian Hawes' team at Lake Fryxell, in Antarctica's Taylor Valley.
Lauder celebrates half century
The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere's research station at Lauder, in Central Otago, celebrates 50 years of research this week. Lauder was officially opened on 7 April 1961 by William Hamilton, the Director General of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), and has specialised in measuring ozone, UV radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations. At the end of this month, staff and former colleagues will gather at Lauder for a party. Our Changing World will be there too to help celebrate and to find out about the station's first half century.
Creating lab-on-a-chip devices, and how lasers are used to make them, part two of Matiu/Somes island weeds, and Argo floats and what they are telling us about the world's oceans.
Audio from Thursday 7 April 2011
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
Weeds on Matiu-Somes Island - part 1 ( 13′ 28″ )
21:06 Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington harbour is being restored to natural forest, which involves some weeding of NZ native species
3D Scene Scanner ( 12′ 42″ )
21:20 IRL's Robert Valkenburg is developing a mobile scanner to create images of 3D scenes and objects
Antarctica's Dry Valleys ( 24′ 39″ )
21:34 A multi-disciplinary team from Waikato and Canterbury universities is mapping the Dry Valley ecosystem to create a GIS model