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Science Deadline: Another cyclone, freshwater...

Science Deadline: Another cyclone heads to NZ, the science of freshwater, and media training for Māori researchers

Issue 419, 13 Apr 2017

Top news from the Science Media Centre's news-sharing platform.

Are qualifications or job choice more important for recent graduates?

River doctors: Learning from medicine to help heal ecosystems

Mānuka spreading seeds by fire since ages ago

New from the SMC

Expert Q&A: Cyclone Cook and flooding

In the News: Te Kiri Gold scrutiny

In the News: The science of the freshwater estate

In the News: Kaikōura shook more violently than Christchurch

New from the SMC global network


Expert reaction: IARC audit of worldwide childhood cancer incidence

Expert reaction: Reprogramming brain cells for Parkinson's

Australian SMC

Finding a path to sustainability for the Aussie land sector

Super sensitive devices work on recycling atoms

Unique database details 5.8 trillion tonne global fishing catch

Damsels can't react to distress cues in dying corals

Distracted? Slowing down not a safe option

NZ braced for second storm
A mere week after the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the North Island, another cyclone is on its way.

The MetService is already warning Kiwis that Cyclone Cook could bring heavy rainfall when it reaches New Zealand on Fridayafternoon, especially to areas already saturated from last week.

By Friday morning the cyclone had reached NZ's coastal waters and MetService meteorologist Arno Dyason said people should be prepared for the possibility of flooding, landslips and wind damage to powerlines, properties and large trees.

Following so closely on the tail of Cyclone Debbie, which caused damaging floods in Edgecumbe last week, experts have cautioned this could be a reminder of what's to come.

University of Auckland engineer Associate Professor Asaad Shamseldin said "the recent cyclone episodes and the associated flood events around New Zealand is a reminder to all of us that we as a nation are vulnerable to floods".

"Once again, the recent flood events have demonstrated that they can have very adverse effects on communities causing damages, and trauma as well as disrupting daily lives."

"They are also a reminder about what can happen as a result of climate change in which extreme flood events may become the norm," he said.

In a Q&A, Professor Bruce Glavovic - EQC Chair in Natural Hazards Planning based at Massey University - said many communities lived in flood-prone areas due to historic decisions, such as river-side locales being highly desirable.

But that meant people were already in harm's way of natural hazards, so there had to be wise choices about how to manage those risks into the future.

"The elephant in the room is what our communities face in a changing climate: With 95+% of population living within 10km of the seashore – how are we going to deal with rising sea levels?

“Sea level rise is a certainty – what is uncertain is quite how fast it is going to rise and what the locality specific impacts are going to be in the distant future. But we cannot afford to postpone community discussions about what this means for us in NZ."

Professor Glavovic's full Q&A is available on the SMC website.

Quoted: Newsroom

"I don’t recall water ever being on the agenda like it is now.

"We’ve seen micro debates over Ruataniwha or Canterbury but at a national level, putting water in the public consciousness, I think this is new.

"And when it’s in the public consciousness it gets in the political consciousness."

The Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman
on public attention on freshwater quality.

The science of fresh water
A new report from Sir Peter Gluckman lays out the science on which to base fresh water ecosystem management.

At over 120 pages it is dense in technical detail, but the message from Sir Peter and the team of scientists who contributed to the report is clear, as Sir Peter told TVNZ:

"The reality is that we cannot keep going as we have been. We need monitoring, we need good standards, we need co-ordinated action by government, regional councils, and others to make improvements."

The report follows the release by environment minister Dr Nick Smith in February of a new target to have 90 per cent of rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040. Critics argued that the Government was simply shifting the goalposts to achieve its aim, while doing little to ensure fresh water quality improved.

Swimmable target

Sir Peter told Radio Live’s Alison Mau that the new standards, which are still the subject of public consultation, would require better ongoing monitoring of water quality to track progress towards cleaning up waterways.

“I think it was not a stellar example of science communication… however they are very insightful standards in the sense that they require repeated monitoring at the same sites which will lead to a far better assessment of trends over time,” he said.

“This forces a catchment management approach, which is what everybody wants which will improve the quality of water all the time, not just at particular times.”

Massey University fresh water scientist Dr Mike Joy, said the report's characterisation of the new standards are more "nuanced" was "papering over some huge intentional politicking around swimmable rivers."

"When you are the Government’s science advisor you get got up in having to play along with these games," told Alison Mau.

"The fact is that we can’t clean up until we stop dirtying."

Policy news & developments

Social media to fight flu: The Ministry of Health is teaming up with Massey University and ESR to look at whether social media can help spot flu epidemics and other outbreaks coming.

Marsden Fund assessed: An assessment report on the Marsden Fund, administered by Royal Society Te Apārangi, has made a number of recommendations, including developing a performance framework with periodic international review.

Suicide prevention: The Health Minister has released the draft suicide prevention strategy for consultation, which is open for submissions until 12 June 2017.

Drinking water quality: The annual report on drinking water quality has been released, which showed 80 per cent of people living in communities with more than 100 people received water that met all the drinking water standards requirements.

Health research grants: The Health Research Council has granted a total of $1.65 million in research funds among 11 Explorer Grants, including faster detection of antibiotic resistance, correcting abnomal gut microbiota in babies born via C-section and a novel substitute to regrow teeth.

Māori media SAVVY training
Māori researchers are invited to apply for upcoming fully-funded sessions of the Science Media Centre’s acclaimed series of media and communication workshops for researchers.

Our tailored workshops for Māori researchers invite guest speakers from Māori and mainstream media to share their insights, and offer opportunities for Māori researchers to discuss common issues and perspectives.

The immersive workshop format uses face-to-face interactions with media to train researchers in a wide range of practical and strategic communication skills, with the aim of increasing public awareness of Māori research and expertise.

Established and emerging Māori researchers from all fields are welcome to apply. Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, and beginners anticipating media interest in their work.

Workshop fees have been waived, thanks to support from Curious Minds - He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara.

Travel and accommodation funding support may be available -- please see the application for details.

Find out more about Media SAVVY for Māori researchers and apply for an upcoming workshop.

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