Mapping underground water, collaborating to move freshwater species, North Island glaciers and a better chromosome test for IVF embryos.
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Our Changing World

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Mapping NZ’s underground water

Much of New Zealand’s freshwater flows underground, and a team from GNS Science is in the process of creating maps to show where it comes from and where it flows to.

Uwe Morgenstern and Catherine Moore tell Alison Ballance that aging the water is a critical part of the project, with some aquifers containing ancient water that is hundreds of years old.

Amber Aranui’s mātauranga Māori perspective adds to a rich understanding of groundwater on the Heretaunga Plains.

Collaborating to move freshwater species

University of Canterbury freshwater biologists are using a joint mātauranga Māori and western conservation science framework for translocating species such as kākahi or freshwater mussels.

Channell Thoms and Aisling Rayne tell Alison Ballance about the value of their approach.
Tuna (eel) monitoring with rakatahi (youth) at Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau.

A new test for IVF embryos

Janet Pitman and her team, at Victoria University of Wellington, are developing a new test that they hope will be a better and cheaper way of screening human embryos, to detect those with chromosomal abnormalities.

They tell Alison Ballance that half of embryos carry too many chromosomes, which is usually fatal and contributes to a low success rate for embryos conceived using IVF.
Zaramasina Clark and Janet Pitman

Glaciers as barometers of climate change

Shaun Eaves, from Victoria University of Wellington, says that the small numbers of glaciers surviving on Mt Ruapehu, in the North Island, are facing a tenuous future with climate warming.

He explains to Alison Ballance how evidence left behind by glaciers can help reconstruct past climates.
Mount Ruapehu's summit glaciers above Crater Lake

Listen to the complete shows

25 February 2021 - groundwater and indigenous translocations

4 March 2021 - embryos and glaciers

Voices from Antarctica

Alison Ballance finds out what it takes to live in and do science in Antarctica, in a podcast series recorded on the frozen continent in November 2019.

Voice of the Kākāpō

Voice of the Kākāpō - an audio adventure through the bumpy bumper 2019 breeding season of NZ's rare flightless parrot
Kakapo. Photo Andrew Digby DOC

An alphabetical jaunt around the periodic table of chemical elements.

Actinium - rare and radioactive
Aluminium - light and versatile
Americium - a radioactive domestic do-gooder
Antimony - takes lives, saves lives
Argon - every breath you take.
Arsenic - the well-known poison
Astatine - awfully rare

Barium - never found on its own
Berkelium and the synthetic heavyweights
Beryllium - sweet and precious, but deadly
Bismuth - an unusual heavy metal
Boron - made by cosmic rays, useful in the kitchen
Bromine - the colour purple and poison gas

Cadmium - colour and quantum dots
Caesium - the time-keeper
Calcium - strength and beauty
Carbon - life and times of the King of Elements
Cerium - combustible and confusing
Chlorine - good for health, bad for health
Chromium - colourful and shiny
Cobalt - goblin of the periodic table
Copper - essential, in moderation
Curium & Meitnerium - in honour of two pioneering women

Dysprosium - hard to get

Erbium - through rose-tinted glasses
Europium - putting the security in the Euro

Fluorine - the non-stick element
Francium - final naturally-occurring element to be discovered

Gadolinium - plays a key role in MRI scans
Gallium - mysterious case of the disappearing spoon
Germanium - important in the first transistors
Gold - a most desirable noble metal

Hafnium - helped land the first astronauts on the moon
Helium - rare on earth but universally abundant
Holmium - obscure, but an important surgical laser
Hydrogen - number 1 in the universe

Indium- Queen of the touchscreen
Iodine - a vital trace element
Iridium and the end of the dinosaurs
Iron - creator of the modern world

Krypton - its name means 'hidden' but it's a real thing

Lanthanum - curious case of a 'lost' element
Lead - sweet-tasting but deadly
Lithium - a mood-enhancing element
Lutetium – an obscure Parisian

Magnesium – loved by everyone and everything
Manganese – the ‘essential’ essential element
Mercury – mesmerising quicksilver
Molybdenum – a catalyst at bacterial to industrial scales

Neodymium – the secret behind supermagnets
Neon – the red of neon lights
Nickel – more than just a 5 cent coin
Niobium – useful at high and low temperatures
Nitrogen – a vital powerhouse

Osmium – heavyweight champion of the elements
Oxygen – the friendly element

Palladium – cleaning up your car’s exhaust
Phosphorus – P was discovered in pee
Platinum – another pricey precious metal
Plutonium – nuclear bombs & nuclear power
Polonium – few redeeming features
Potassium – a matter of life and death
Praseodymium – a long name but not many uses
Promethium – rare and unremarkable
Protactinium – a very dull chemical element

Radium – famous but not very useful
Radon – radioactive basement risk
Rhenium - has a number of claims to chemical fame
Rhodium – used in cars, drugs … & aftershave
Rubidium – expensive and not very useful
Ruthenium – a ‘sort’ of precious metal

Samarium – magnets for making & listening to music
Scandium – the scandal of the scandium cricket bat
Selenium – good reason to eat seafood & Brazil nuts
Silicon – a ubiquitous part of modern life
Silver – a popular noble metal
Sodium – a salt of the earth spectator
Strontium – from sensitive teeth toothpaste to nuclear fission
Sulfur – king of bad smells

Tantalum – a tantalising chemical element
Technetium – the first synthetic element
Tellurium – usually associated with gold
Terbium - turns up in old TVs & new Euro notes
Thallium - the poisoner's poison
Thorium - potential source of cleaner nuclear energy
Thulium - the most laborious of the lanthanoids
Tin – from whistles to organ pipes & anti-fouling paint
Titanium – light, strong & quite pretty
Tungsten – highest melting point of any metal

Uranium - first radioactive element to be discovered

Vanadium - Model T Fords, big batteries & sea squirts

Xenon - a stranger in search of strange particles

Ytterbium - yet another element named after Ytterby
Yttrium - here's that village Ytterby again

Zinc - more useful than you realise

Zirconium - shape-shifting time capsule
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