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NZ researcher to study tsunami's effect on land

New Zealand researcher to study tsunami's effect on land

December's tsunami devastated the lives of many people, but what effect did it have on the land? New Zealand researcher Dr Paul Kench has received a special grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand to study just that.

Dr Kench, a former recipient of a Marsden Fast-Start grant for young researchers, has received extra funding to travel to the Maldives 11-21 February to study the effect of the tsunami on land.

The Maldives archipelago suffered significant destruction as a result of the December 26 tsunami, with 82 people confirmed dead and 26 still missing. But while the effects on people, man-made structures and vegetation are very apparent, less is known about the effect on the land mass itself.

Dr Kench, from The University of Auckland, along with an international team, has survey stakes on 12 low-lying reef islands in Baa atoll, in the central Maldivian archipelago. The survey data has already provided invaluable evidence of seasonal change in the islands – a critical component in evaluating changes in the reef islands due to sea-level rise and climate change.

Chief Executive of the Royal Society, Dr Steve Thompson, said "Although the world's focus is on the immediate and urgent humanitarian crisis, this extreme act of nature provides an opportunity to understand the effects on coastal regions and to plan for the future. We must act now as sand movement on these islands will be quick to mask the effects of the tsunami. The Royal Society has made a one-off grant from its own funds as there is no time to go through the usual funding processes."

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