Our Changing World for Thursday 2 July 2009
Takahe Rearing Unit
Takahe chick with fibreglass surrogate 'mum' (image: G. Cubitt, DoC) and adult takahe (image: P. Morrison, DoC)
Sixty one years ago Invercargill doctor Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered takahe in Fiordland's Murchison Mountains. The present population is about 220 birds: the Murchison Mountains remain the takahe's stronghold, with growing numbers on four predator-free islands. Since 1983, the Department of Conservation has been involved in managing takahe nests to boost the birds' recovery. Artificial incubation of eggs and rearing of chicks is carried out at the Burwood Bush rearing unit, near Te Anau, where five pairs are held to form a small breeding group.
Takahe chicks being fed by a puppet (left image: R. Morris, DoC; right image: D. Eason, DoC)
A Retrospective on International Polar Year
Antarctica New Zealand's annual conference, taking place in Auckland this week, has as its theme Sustaining the Gains of the International Polar Year, which refers to the largest internationally co-ordinated polar research programme in the last 50 years. International Polar Year, or IPY, ran from March 2007 to March 2009, and saw 50,000 scientists and more than 60 countries participating in diverse research projects at both poles. Alison Ballance talks with Lou Sanson from Antarctica New Zealand, Tim Naish from Victoria University and Craig Cary from the University of Waikato about New Zealand and IPY.
Our Changing World's Veronika Meduna took part in Pole to Pole, a three-part radio documentary series that marked the International Polar Year by exploring some of the world's most remote and vulnerable regions. Check out our audio archive for many more stories on Antarctic research, such as this one with Tim Naish about recent Andrill results.
Lakes Under Antarctic Ice, and Melting in Polar Regions
Two years ago in Antarctica scientists made the surprising discovery of lakes and rivers deep under thick ice. Robyn Williams, from ABC's Science Show, catches up with Helen Amanda Fricker from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla California about recent research on the lakes, and finds out from Marco Tedesco of the City College of New York about the complexities of trying to measure rates of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica.
Super-massive Black Holes
The centre of our galaxy has been under intense scrutiny in recent years because of the growing interest from theorists wanting to study the physics of black holes. In the past, black holes were seen as the most destructive force in nature. Now, following a string of astonishing discoveries, super-massive black holes have undergone a dramatic shift in perception. These objects may have been critical to the formation of structure in the early universe, spawning bursts of star formation and planets. As many as 300 million of them are spread throughout the observable cosmos, and many of them formed only 800 million years after the Big Bang.
Fulvio Melia is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Arizona and the author of several books about balck holes. Most recently he completed a biography of one of the most influential general relativists of the 20th century - New Zealander Roy Kerr. Cracking the Einstein Code: Relativity and the Birth of Black Hole Physics is available online now, and will be available in bookshops in New Zealand later this year.