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Our Changing World

December 2021 stories

Kia ora,

I hope, like me, you are having a nice wind-down towards the end of the year, and have some nice summer plans to look forward to. It has been a bit of a crazy one!

December's Our Changing World episodes take us all around the country - from installing a seismometer in the back field of a deer farm on the South Island's West Coast, to a research expedition in the Hauraki Gulf, and even a trip back into the past to learn about the lives of those on Otago's gold fields.

And, if you catch up on your OCW listening and are looking for more great science content, this month saw the launch of a new RNZ podcast.

In Sci Fi / Sci Fact experts from the MacDiarmid Institute take an idea from fiction and see how it stands up to scientific scrutiny. It is fun, informative and definitely worth a listen!

All the best,
Ngā mihi nui,
Unwelcome visitors
Invasive pests and how to stop them.

Conservationists estimate that wilding pines now cover 1.8 hectares of land across New Zealand. Katy Gosset meets a Canterbury Masters student who hopes to halt the pines' progress by innoculating felled trees with a native fungus.
Plus, unwelcome visitors from the oceans include both invasive species and plastic pollution. This year, two national research programmes came together on two expeditions to gather data and work with communities to help mitigate these ocean threats.
Hear about the work of the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox and the Aotearoa Impacts and Mitigations of Microplastics projects during their Hauraki Gulf expedition.
Using chemistry to uncover the past

The power of chemical isotope analysis, and how one researcher is using it to learn about forgotten people from the Otago gold rush.
Dr. Charlotte King is part of the Southern Cemeteries Archaeology project – a group working with local communities who are concerned about unmarked graves in cemeteries related to the gold fields of central Otago. Once human remains are recovered many lines of evidence are used to reconstruct their lives to learn about them before they are reburied in marked sites. Dr. King uses chemical analysis to uncover clues as to where the people were from and what kinds of food they ate.

Keeping an eye on river flow

Man-made structures in rivers and streams, such as culverts, protect road infrastructure but can act as barriers to native fish who need to make their way upstream to complete their lifecycle. Claire Concannon meets the University of Canterbury engineering student and DOC scientists who are working together to investigate ways to make these passageways more fish friendly.
And, in the face of a changing climate which will bring more frequent heavy rainfalls and resulting floods, a team at NIWA are developing a national river flow forecasting tool that might give us a heads up. Justin Gregory speaks to one of the scientists working on this to find out more.

Listening to the hum of the Alpine Fault

The on-land boundary between the Pacific and Australian plates runs almost the length of the South Island. Claire Concannon catches up with a team from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington as they install a seismic sensor on the fault line. This is one in a set of more than 50 sensors that will be placed 10km apart along the length of the fault as part of the Southern Alps Long Skinny Array project, known as SALSA. 
The aim is to record and decipher the ambient seismic noise – the background hum of the fault line – which in turn will enable them to create virtual earthquakes to mimic what ground shaking will look like when a slip happens anywhere along the fault.  
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Voices from Antarctica. Alison Ballance finds out what it takes to live in and do science in Antarctica.
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Fight for the Wild. Podcast series exploring the notion of Predator Free 2050 in Aotearoa.
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