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Ross sea protection, 'superstorm' Sandy, SAVVY scientists

Issue 205 2-8 November

In This Issue
Ross Sea


Superstrom Sandy

New from the SMC

Sciblogs highlights

Research highlights

Policy News

Sci-tech events

Quick Links

SMC Alerts

No Ross Sea protection...yet
The Antarctic Ross Sea will remain open to fishing in all areas following the failure of an international meeting to reach agreement on the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean.

However, scientists are hopeful that an agreement can be reached in the near future.

After 11 days of intense talks, the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, concluded without representatives from 25 nations reaching a consensus on creating a network of Marine Protected Areas in the Southern Ocean (see reports from Reuters and BBC)

In light of the lack of consensus, the Commission has agreed to an 'intercessional meeting' to revisit the issue, which will take place in July in Germany.

The Science Media Centre collected the following reaction from Antarctic researchers.

Prof Bryan C. Storey, Professor of Antarctic Studies and Director Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, comments:

"It is a great shame that a decision was not reached, it was always going to be a big ask to get all 25 countries with varied fishing interests to agree. However, there are many positives to come out of the discussions in that the US and NZ agreed on a combined MPA for the Ross Sea, and that an intercessional meeting will be held in July to advance the proposals.

"I get the impression that an MPA for the Ross Sea will happen, it is just a matter of time. This will not lead to a total ban on fishing in the Ross Sea but it is a step in the right direction."

Dr Victoria Metcalf, Lecturer in Animal Genetics, Lincoln University, comments:

"I would like to see this not as a failure of those that lobby for the protection of places like the Ross Sea from human activities such as fishing nor as a victory for those that argue that commercial activities should be allowed in Antarctic waters for a multitude of reasons, that can all easily be debated against. Rather this is the first step in complex negotiations and neither 'side' has at present 'won'.

"To me the biggest question that we should be asking ourselves in the next eight months is what many Antarctic scientists have already asked themselves - Should we even be there in the Ross Sea in any commercial capacity? The easy answer for most of us is an emphatic 'No'".

You can read further commentary and analysis on the SMC website.

Scientists get media SAVVY
Science Media SAVVY, a new series of media skills workshops the Science Media Centre is running for scientists, kicked off this week in Christchurch.

Twelve talented researchers, selected from a pool of over 50 applicants, were put through their paces by SMC staff veteran media trainer Michael Brown.

Over two full days, the scientists had the chance to improve their on-camera presence, learn how enthusiastic they can be without losing credibility, brainstorm compelling ways to explain tough concepts, and practice saying what they really mean to say.

The initiative, which will be offered around the country next year, got off the ground with the support of Dr Mark Quigley, the 2011 winner of the Prime Minister's Science Communicator's Prize.

At the end of the intensive media training programme, scientists got to hone their best science story pitches before a panel of senior journalists. (And, man, did they ever rise to the challenge!)

You can read more about the workshop and view photos here. More information about the Science Media SAVVY programme can be found here.
On the science radar...
Halloween science (plus zombies & werewolves), Hawaiian soil on Mars, leaping flea-bots and Koshik the 'talking' elephant.

Superstorm Sandy's NZ link
Kiwi climate scientists have pointed out a New Zealand connection to Superstorm Sandy as well as highlighting the role of global warming in boosting the storm's severity.

Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States on October 29th, wreaking havoc across the numerous states.

Prof Jim Renwick from Victoria University Wellington noted that the weather patterns giving rise to Sandy were similar to those which created tropical cyclone Giselle in New Zealand - the storm which sunk the Wahine in Wellington Harbour in 1968.
"Sandy is a classic example of a tropical cyclone reinvigorating itself outside the tropics, drawing extra energy from a strong jet stream and a deep trough in the mid-latitude westerlies," he said.

"Such storms can bring extremely damaging weather anywhere they occur. The 'Wahine' storm of April 1968 was very similar in many respects to Sandy, and brought hurricane-force winds to many parts of New Zealand."

State-side Kiwi, Dr Kevin Trenberth from US National Center for Atmospheric Research, highlighted climate change as a factor in the Sandy's severity, writing on the Conversation website,

"Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and ocean temperatures, and a warmer and moister atmosphere, and its effects are in the range of 5 to 10%. Natural variability and weather has provided the perhaps optimal conditions of a hurricane running into extra-tropical conditions to make for a huge intense storm, enhanced by global warming influences."

Dr Trenberth's comments were echoed by New Zealander Prof Jim Salinger, currently based at Stanford University in California, who said to the SMC,

"Climate change has stacked the deck of cards, making super storms of this kind more likely to occur."

Read more expert commentary on the Science Media Centre website. Google has compiled an interactive crisis map for storm Sandy, giving up-to-date information about storm surges, power outages, shelters and evacuation routes.

Quoted: Bloomberg Businessweek

"It's Global Warming, Stupid"

Cover Headline for this week's issue looking at Hurricane Sandy

New from the SMC

Experts Respond:

Hurricane Sandy: New Zealand climate experts provide commentary on Hurricane Sandy, likening the storm to Cyclone Giselle which sunk the Wahine in Wellington in 1968.

CCAMLR: Antarctic researchers respond to the news that the an international Commission has failed to agree on marine protection for the Southern Ocean.

In the news:

Protecting Dolphins:
Farifax's Delwyn Dickey writes about the science and politics of dolphin protection.

Natural Health Products: The government's Health Select Committee has reported back on proposed legislation for regulating natural health products, with all parties involved supporting a revised bill.

Reflections on Science:

Sandy and climate contributions: Writing for the website The Conversation, US-based New Zealander Dr Kevin Trenberth notes the contribution of climate change to Hurricane Sandy.

Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's posts:

TIN100 again proves it is the meat of an innovation club sandwich - Peter Kerr sings the priases of NZ's leading high-tech industry benchmarking report.

Look out for the eclipse - Marcus Wilson explains why total eclipses are soooo much better than partial eclipses, noting that there is one due soon.
Physics Stop

Becoming a SAVVY Scientist - Michael Edmonds reflects on his recent experiences in a media training for scientists workshop.
Molecular Matters

Research highlights

Please note: hyperlinks point, where possible, to the relevant abstract or paper.

Smoking bans:
An overarching meta-analysis of studies has shown that smoking bans are linked to subsequent decreases smoking related disease. Researchers reviewed 45 studies covering 33 smoke-free laws in the US and countries as varied as Uruguay, New Zealand and Germany and found that comprehensive smoke-free laws were associated with substantial decreases hospitalisations for heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Kiwi bees dodge antibiotic resistance: Bacteria in the guts of US honeybees are highly resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline, probably as a result of decades of preventive antibiotic use in domesticated hives. Researchers from Yale University identified eight different tetracycline resistance genes among U.S. honeybees that were exposed to the antibiotic, but the genes were largely absent in bees from countries where such antibiotic use is banned, including Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand.

Red alert: People with pale skin and red hair may need to worry about more than just sun exposure in relation to their increased risk of skin cancer, suggests a new study. Harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are a notable driver of skin cancer, but observations in mice with red hair and fair skin traits uncover a UV-independent pathway that also increases the risk of melanoma. The study finds that the pigment that gives hair a red hue can contribute to melanoma formation regardless of sun exposure.

Bright future for e-Paper: US researchers have developed a proof-of-concept prototype for a brighter and more colourful flexible e-paper display, which they envision will be incorporated into low power electronic reading devices. The display also has no borders between pixels, drastically reducing the dead space between individual points of colour.
Nature Communications

Fear of math can hurt: Fear of math can activate regions of the brain linked with the experience of physical pain and visceral threat detection, according to a new brain scanning study. The researchers found that in individuals who experience high levels of anxiety when facing math tasks, the anticipation of math increases activity in regions of the brain associated with the physical sensation of pain.
Policy updates

Some of the policy highlights from this week:

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams has confirmed a deal has been reached for free non-standard residential connections to the ultra-fast broadband network.

Laser consultation: Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew today announced the release of a consultation document outlining proposed options for new government controls on high power hand-held laser pointers.

Upcoming sci-tech events

Brain Matters - Neurological Foundation's 40th anniversary public event - 5 November, Christchurch; 7 November, Wellington.
What If we could get fit in half the time? 'What if Wednesday' lecture from Dr Nick Draper - 7 November, Christchurch
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.


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