Our Changing World

Thursday 5 May 2011, with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna

Coming up

9:00 pm Thursday 24 April: Our changing world

Okarito rowi are New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, and chicks that hatch in the wild have a 95% chance of being killed by a stoat. To avoid this grisly death every rowi egg is ‘rescued’ from the wild and safely hatched in captivity, and Alison Ballance joins Jim Livingstone from the Department of Conservation in a forest near Franz Josef for an unexpected egg rescue, and follows the egg to an incubator at the West Coast Wildlife Centre.

Most adults have little or no memory before the age of three or four, yet this period has a major impact on our development. In this preview of the first 2014 Royal Society of New Zealand lecture series highlighting 20 years of Marsden Funding, University of Otago’s Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne explains some of the novel experiments used in her laboratory to study the memories of infants and the phenomenon known as childhood amnesia.

Many of us have a kakabeak shrub in the garden, but this red-flowering native plant has almost disappeared from the wild. There are only about 120 wild kakabeak left, fewer than kakapo, and each of them has its own name. To find out more about Gareth, Edge, Whiteslip and Bluff, Veronika Meduna meets forest manager Pete Shaw in the Maungataniwha Native Forest in the Hawke’s Bay, where the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has established a nursery and is testing a gunshot propagation method.

Audio from Thursday 5 May 2011

Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.

  • 50 Years at the Lauder Research Station ( 19′ 58″ )

    21:06 The NIWA Research Station at Lauder is a world leader in atmospheric research areas such as ozone measurement

  • Clotting Conundrum ( 12′ 49″ )

    21:20 Stephen Brennan explains how his work on fibrinogen helped solve the genetic mystery of a man's blood clots

  • Sustainable Town Planning ( 12′ 53″ )

    21:34 Waikato University's new Professor of Environmental Planning already has some strong opinions on Hamilton's city sprawl

  • Solar Bach ( 12′ 40″ )

    21:46 The Meridian First Light solar bach has been built by Victoria University students for the 2011 Solar Decathlon

On This Programme

Half a Century for Lauder Stargazers

NIWA's atmospheric research station at Lauder

NIWA's research station at Lauder specialises in measuring ozone, UV levels and greenhouse gases. Images: NIWA

Driving along State Highway 85 between Ranfurly and Alexandra, Central Otago's old Pig Route, it would be easy to miss Lauder - if it weren't for a few strange domes and antennae sticking out from the paddocks. NIWA's atmospheric research station was set up in 1961 to study the earth's upper atmosphere and to measure auroras and airglow. Central Otago's clear skies and lack of pollution provided an ideal site for optical observations, initially carried out from a converted GMC truck known as the "dog box", but the station also incorporated a radar system that had been established near Invercargill during the International Geophysical Year in 1957/58.

During the late 1970s, when the first concerns about ozone depletion were raised, Lauder scientists, known locally as the "stargazers" began investigating the lower atmosphere. By the time the ozone hole was discovered in 1985, the team had already contributed to research into the causes and effects of ozone depletion and began regular measurements of nitrous oxide, ozone, UV radiation and trace gases associated with the ozone layer.

In June 1991, the eruption of Mt Pinatubo provided further stimulus for the study of aerosols, cloud, and radiation levels and Lauder was chosen as one of five primary sites worldwide to collect data as part of the international Network for Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC). In this feature, Lauder scientists and staff recall the station's beginnings and transformations during its first half century.

Lauder specialises in measuring ozone, UV radiation and greenhouse gases

Lauder is part of a global network focusing on atmospheric research and it houses and operates several instruments from international research groups, including the Dutch LIDAR (laser detection and ranging) system which monitors ozone and aerosols at night. On the right, electronics expert Paul Johnston is checking a narrow-beam radar antenna, in 1978.

Fibrinogen

Stephen BrennanStephen Brennan (right) from the University of Otago, Christchurch and Canterbury Health Laboratories, is an international authority on fibrinogen, the molecule which controls blood clotting.

The Molecular Pathology laboratory where he works receives samples from around the world from people who have fibrinogen disorders.

He describes a specific example to Ruth Beran, the case of a Melbourne man who kept presenting at hospital with blood clots. Ironically, while fibrinogen assists in the formation of blood clots, this man had a lack of fibrinogen in his blood.

Using previous work which had sequenced the genes responsible for fibrinogen formation, as well as antisense technology, Stephen and his colleagues solved the mystery of this man's congenital afibrinogenemia.

Sustainable Cities

Single storey houses in a new Hamilton suburb epitomise urban sprawl

Single storey urban sprawl in a new Hamilton suburb (image: A. Ballance)

Bob Evans is the new Professor of Environmental Planning at Waikato University. He's recently moved from the UK and has a newcomer's perspective on what New Zealand is - and isn't - getting right in city design. Alison Ballance joins him in a Hamilton suburb to hear his thoughts on urban sprawl, our over-reliance on cars, and why revitalizing inner cities is so important.

You can find a link to Waikato University's Environmental Reflections Blog here.

Solar Bach

The Meridian First Light solar bach under construction

The Meridian First Light solar bach under construction in Frank Kitts Park this week (images: S.Prebble/VUW)

Over the last week a small house has sprung up on Wellington's waterfront. The Meridian First Light solar bach has been designed and built by a team of Victoria University architecture students as the sole southern hemisphere entry for the Solar Decathlon competition, being held in Washington DC later this year. With support from the building industry and professionals the solar bach features the latest in energy efficient building methods, such as triple-glazing, extra thick wool insulation, solar hot water heating and solar panels. Alison Ballance visits the solar bach during its construction in Frank Kitts Park to talk with two of the Victoria University students who have been involved in the project from the beginning, Anna Farrow and Nick Officer.

The Meridian First Light solar bach is open to the public from 7-24 May in Frank Kitts Park on the Wellington waterfront. open 12-4 on weekdays, and 10-5.30 on the weekends.

Kermadec Biodiscovery 2011

Kermadec Expedition bannerA 3-week marine expedition to the Kermadec Islands sets sail on Monday, and Alison Ballance will be on board. She is joining a team of marine and terrestrial biologists from Auckland Museum, Te Papa, Department of Conservation and the Australian Museum, as they survey underwater and terrestrial life on and around all the islands in the group. Alison will be sending daily reports to the Kermadec Biodiscovery web site, reporting on progress and answering questions from the public and schools.

Next Week

Hunting for viruses in yellow-eyed penguins, and a special feature from the Climate Futures - Pathways for Society conference, held in Wellington recently.