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SMC Heads-Up: freshwater science, battling defaunation

SMC Heads-Up: Morgan's freshwater science, battling defaunation, the future of science investment

Issue 289 25-31 July 2014

Morgan panel reviews freshwater science

Economist and philanthropist Dr Gareth Morgan drew together a panel of 16 scientists to run the ruler over the Government's plan to better management our rivers and streams.

Last night he unveiled My River, a website outlining the review of freshwater science undertaken by that panel and offering New Zealanders a channel to report freshwater pollution.

Morgan, who funds numerous science-related reviews through his charitable trust, the Morgan Family Foundation, said that a revisit of the Government's freshwater bottom lines for water quality was necessary to "reach a reasonable person's view of what we need to do better".

"Firstly the policy won't guarantee it will be safe to swim in rivers, only to wade in them. In other words, don't slip over," he said of the Government's National Policy Statement on freshwater.

"Secondly the requirement to 'maintain or improve' waterways has been fudged to apply 'across a region' rather than to individual waterways. It's unclear how this will be measured and monitored. This means the public can't trust the policy will do what it says on the tin".

Scientists forming the panel convened by Morgan came from institutions including NIWA, the Cawthron Institute, Massey University, Dairy NZ and Environment Canterbury.

The notes of the discussions have all been published on the My River website, including an outline of where the scientists agreed and disagreed.

Morgan undertook a similar exercise in the writing of his 2009 bookPoles Apart, which saw him convene a panel of experts to examine the science of climate change.

On the science radar this week...

Tyrannosaurs team players, elephants that smell great, space beer(!), the evolution of aeroplanesand wine corks getting screwed by climate change.

Upcoming science podcasting workshop

The Science Media Centre is introducing a series of workshops that will offer scientists the opportunity to pick up tips and skills to help them communicate their science via blogging, podcasting, online video and animation.

The series kicks off next month with Dr Chris Smith of the top-rating science podcast The Naked Scientists hosting science podcasting workshops in Auckland and Wellington.

With a cheap digital recorder and free audio editing software you can now create your own podcasts and publish them to the web to showcase your science and build your confidence as a communicator.

Podcasts such as SciFriday, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe and The Naked Scientists are attracting millions of downloads and streams every month, often eclipsing the impact of mainstream media as a means of science communication.

This Science Media SAVVY workshop features Dr Chris Smith, the founder and host of the hugely popular The Naked Scientists podcast and BBC science correspondent, and will introduce you to the tools and techniques that will help you get your science podcast off the ground.

The workshop is aimed at scientists who are keen to develop either a podcast or audio interviews and features to showcase and popularise science. It will cover:

- Science communication in the audio format - what works and what bombs

- The basics of recording good quality audio and hassle-free audio editing

- Sourcing and using copyright-free music and sound-effects

- Promoting your podcasts, building an audience and collaborating with mainstream media

- Opportunities to contribute to existing podcasts with a large reach.

There will be opportunities for attendees to gain feedback on audio samples they submit as part of the application process.

FREE TO ATTEND: Limited to 30 attendees - applications via online form essential


Science Media SAVVY - science communication and podcasting workshop

Presented in association with AUT University and Royal Society of New Zealand

Venues and dates:

Auckland - AUT University, 1 - 4pm, August 11

Wellington - Royal Society of New Zealand, 12 - 3pm, August 12

Full event details will be sent to those selected for the workshop

Presenter: Dr Chris Smith, BBC science correspondent and founder of The Naked Scientists podcast

Attendees are also invited to special live recordings of the Naked Scientists in conjunction with Radio New Zealand'sThis Way Up show. AUCKLAND: AUT University's Wave Room on Saturday August 9th, 12 - 1pm. WELLINGTON: Paramount Theatre, Tuesday August 12th, 6 - 8pm. More details on theRadio New Zealand website.

Restoring species in a changing world

The goal of protecting threatened animal species in a pristine, untouched habitat is becoming "increasingly unobtainable"according to a new article in Science.

The research review from New Zealand scientists highlights Earth's disappearing animals as well as the complications that arise when humans try to conserve them.

The article, authored by Prof Philip Seddon from the University of Otago and colleagues, was published as part of aspecial issue of the journal exploring the extinction threats faced by animals and strategies to prevent this 'de-faunation' of the planet.

The authors warn that saving animals from extinction may require moving them to new areas -- as was the case with Tasmanian devils. Other strategies included introducing new species into an existing ecosystem as a replacement to maintain food webs. For example, to restore grazing functions and the seed dispersal of native large-seeded plants, exotic Aldabra giant tortoises have been introduced to Mauritian offshore islands to replace the extinct Mauritian giant tortoises. Such efforts, while controversial, are becoming more necessary, write the authors.

And there may be even more controversial strategies on the horizon. "The prospect of bringing back extinct species through advanced technologies creates a further conundrum," said Prof Seddon in a media release. "If potential de-extinction of multiple species does become a reality, which species should be resurrected, and which habitats should they be introduced to?"

Prof Seddon's co-authors included Massey University's Dr Bruce Armstrong and colleagues from the UK and United Arab Emirates.

You can read a round up of international media coverage of the study on the Science Media Centre website.

Quoted: Campbell Live

"She's pretty scunge."

Dr Gareth Morgan describes the Waikato River during an interview about his MyRiver intiative.

NEXT WEEK: Shaping our science system

Science Media Centre manager Peter Griffin will chair a panel discussion next week looking at the state of science funding in New Zealand and priorities for the next decade.

Does investment in science influence society? Can we really expect it to meet New Zealand's economic, social, environmental and cultural needs? Is it the level of investment or the areas in which the investment is made?

On 22 August consultation closes on the government's draft National Statement of Science Investment, a document that sets the scene for a discussion about New Zealand's science funding strategy for years to come. What does this mean for scientists and the average New Zealander?

Join the Science Communicator's Association for a panel discussion that will examine the issues from a range of viewpoints.

The Government is seeking a wide and open discussion about the shape of New Zealand's science system, so come along and be part of the conversation.


Professor Adam Jaffe, Director Motu Economic & Public Policy Research

Wendy McGuinness, Founder & Chief Executive McGuiness Institute

Dr Ian Ferguson, Departmental Science Advisor at the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, with a joint appointment with Plant & Food Research.

Panel chair: Peter Griffin, co-founder of Sciblogs and Science Media Centre manager

Wednesday 30 July | 5.30pm, 6pm start | members $10 non members $20

Royal Society of New Zealand 11 Turnbull Street, Thorndon Wellington


Policy news and developments

Pork agreement - MPI and New Zealand Pork have signed a Government Industry Agreement to work together to strengthen biosecurity.

Insecticide consultation - The EPA is seeking submissions to inform its reassessment of organophosphate and carbamate insecticides and their impact on bees.

Kiwi funding - announced a $70,000 Community Conservation Partnership Fund grant for the Rimutaka Forest Park Trust to ensure the survival of its kiwi population.

Sustainable farming - MPI has announced that applications for the 2015/16 Sustainable Farming Fund will open next month.

The Friday video...

Princeton University's "Art of Science 2014" exhibit

New From the SMC

In the News:

Saving species: NZ authors highlight Earth's disappearing animals as well as the complications that arise when humans try to conserve them.

Our Futures: Read coverage of the Royal Society of New Zealand report exploring our changing population.

Reflections on Science:

False balance: The Conversation weighs up the issues aroundbalance in science reporting.

Experts respond:

Meaty footprints:

Experts comment on an analysis of the environmental impact of different meats. Media coverage available here.

MH17: Colleagues pay tribute to HIV researchers who where among the victims of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 incident.

From the SMC Network:

From the UK SMC:

Briefing: new crop breeding technologies

Expert reaction to study outlining genetic risk factors in schizophrenia

Expert reaction to Government comments on mitochondrial DNA replacement

Expert reaction report on blood safety and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

from the AusSMC:

NEWS BRIEFING: Australian scientists clear the AIDS virus in two men

NEWS BRIEFING: Space oddities: advances in Australian space research

Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:

Where should the science funding dollars be going? - Peter Griffin gives a heads up on plans for the funding the science system in New Zealand.

Griffin's Gadgets

Barry Brill and Anonymous: U R A Fraud - Gareth Renowden finds that he is in the cross-hairs of internet hacktivist group Anonymous, allegedly...

Hot Topic

West African Ebola outbreak now the deadliest in history - West Africa's current Ebola crisis is not looking good writes Siouxsie Wiles.

Infectious Thoughts

Research highlights

Some of the research papers making headlines this week.

Green-eyed monster lurks in dogs: Dogs exhibit more jealous behaviours, like snapping or pushing their owner, when their owners displayed affectionate behaviours towards what appeared to be another dog compared to random objects, according to a new study. The authors say the findings raise questions about the evolutionary basis of jealously in social non-human animals.


Making 'fibre-optic cables' out of thin air: Lasers can be used to send information at the speed of light but molecules in the atmosphere can interfere with a signal over long distances. Now US researcher have developed a "air waveguide" to enhance light signals over long distant sources, that could make long range laser communications a reality.


Antarctic sea ice rethink: New research suggests that Antarctic sea ice may not be expanding as fast as previously thought. A team of scientists say much of the increase measured for Southern Hemisphere sea ice could be due to a processing error in the satellite data. Images available.


Classic painkiller no help for back pain: Paracetamol is no better than placebo at speeding recovery from acute episodes of lower back pain or improving pain levels, function, sleep, or quality of life, according to the first large randomised trial to compare the effectiveness of paracetamol with placebo for low-back pain. The findings question the universal endorsement of paracetamol as the first choice painkiller for low-back pain.


Carbon footprint of the kiwifruit: An extensive analysis of the packaging and transport requirements of sending NZ kiwifruit to Germany and Japan has found the process generates between 0.33 and 0.67 kg of CO2 per kilogram of fruit. The authors also identify a number of points where reductions in carbon can be made, especially in shipping, which accounts for the majority of emissions.

International Journal of Lifecycle Assessment

Upcoming sci-tech events

For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.

• Launch of Science in Society plan - 29 July, Wellington.

Shaping Our Science System - panel discussion, 30 July, Wellington.

Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching 2014 conference -27 July, Queenstown.

No moa, no moa: quantitative reconstruction of megafaunal extinction on islands - Seminar from Assoc Prof George Perry - 31 July, Auckland.

ASPIRE2025 - Novel Interventions to Reduce Smoking among Young Adults - Seminar with Pamela Ling - 31 July, Wellington.

The Naked Scientists Live - August 9 and 12, Auckland and Wellington

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