Our Changing World

Thursday 19 April 2012, with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna

Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.

Full-Colour X-Rays

9:46 PM.A full-colour X-ray scanner, initially developed for high-energy physics, could change medical imaging

Whio Forever - Blue Duck Conservation

9:06 PM.The whio population on the Mangatepopo River is thriving due to stoat trapping and perfect water flow

On This Programme

'Whio Forever' – Blue Duck Conservation

Pair of whio or blue duck in a fast-flowing river, and with small chicks

A pair of whio, or blue duck (left), and with a clutch of small chicks (right) - chicks are able to swim and feed themselves as soon as they have hatched (images: Bubs Smith)

Whio, or blue duck, live in fast-flowing streams and rivers, usually in areas of remote native forest. This whistling, white-water specialist is found only in New Zealand, and is threatened, with a national population of just a few thousand birds. The Department of Conservation and its Whio Forever partner, Genesis Energy, are working ‘to secure whio populations to a minimum of 400 pairs at eight 'security sites' throughout New Zealand by 2014’.

In this story Alison Ballance gets wet feet on a trip down the Mangatepopo River, in the central North Island, with the Department of Conservation’s Bubs Smith and Genesis Energy’s Cam Speedy. The Mangatepopo River is part of the Tongariro Forest Security Site for whio, along with the Whanganui and Whakapapa rivers. Since 2003 the number of whio pairs on the Mangatepopo River has climbed from 4 to 20, average territory size for each pair has shrunk from 1575 metres of river to 315 metres, and in the 2011/2 breeding season 41 chicks were fledged on the river. This success is due to intensive stoat trapping down and alongside the river, regular 1080 drops in the surrounding Tongariro Forest, clean productive water, and a managed water flow regime that is optimal for whio and their insect prey. The water flow is 500 litres per second, which was determined during the reconsenting process for the Tongariro Power Scheme in 2002.


Whio Nic and her partner swimming nearby as Alison Ballance interviews Cam Speedy (left) , and Bubs Smith and Cam Speedy (right) (images: Bubs Smith and Alison Ballance)

Part 3 of ‘Global Body’ – BBC Discovery series

In part three of the four-part BBC Discovery series 'Global Body', the ABC’s Lynne Malcolm finds out how the modern world is affecting our biology. In this programme Lynne Malcolm and BBC Correspondent Valeria Perasso discover if the Hollywood dream is really true for the health of millions of Los Anegeles immigrants. You can listen to this documentary at the BBC Discovery website. We will play part four on 3 May.

Full-colour X-rays

Physicists have known for a long time that X-rays change colour as they pass through tissue, but the detectors in conventional medical X-ray scanners cannot detect this change in wavelength. The University of Canterbury is a partner in a collaboration between CERN and 17 other organisations, which has developed a new generation of detectors, the Medipix chip, to produce full-colour X-ray images. Although these detectors were initially developed for use in high-energy physics, they could add a new tool to medical imaging.

Anthony Butler is a radiologist at Christchurch Hospital, but he’s also the director of the Centre for Bioengineering at the University of Otago, in Christchurch, and a researcher at the University of Canterbury’s HIT lab. He was involved in the development of the detectors, particularly their application in medical diagnostics, and in this interview he discusses the potential of this new technology.

For Women in Science Fellowships

Applications for the L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand For Women in Science Fellowships close on 1 May - these fellowships are aimed at early career women scientists. Click here for details.

Next Week

The kisspeptin molecule and how the brain controls fertility, a self-help computer game for young people suffering from depression, slime moulds and the recent Auckland Bioblitz, and how emerging scientists see their future in New Zealand.