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Rena disaster – what does this mean for our environment?

November 8, 2011

Rena disaster – what does this mean for our environment?

Waikato University scientists to discuss Rena oil spill at Café Scientifiques

A panel of Waikato University scientists will discuss the effects of the Rena oil spill on the environment at this year’s last Hamilton Café Scientifique. Scientists from the departments of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Chemistry and Biological Sciences will form a panel of five speakers for the event which will be held November 22, 7.30pm at Café Francais, Victoria Street, Hamilton.

Coastal Oceanographers in the Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Dr Willem de Lange and Dr Karin Bryan will discuss the dispersal of oil and debris from the Rena. Dr de Lange will talk about winds and currents in the Bay of Plenty and the implications for the dispersal of the oil and debris from the Rena, while Dr Bryan will discuss the effects of the oil spills within Bay of Plenty estuaries, residence, time mixing within sediments, and estuarine dispersal.

Looking at the chemistry behind the spill is Dr Chris Hendy and Prof Alistair Wilkins. Environmental Geochemist Dr Hendy will give details of how analysis of the elemental composition of the oil can provide a fingerprint to identify where the oil on the beach or in the sea came from. He will explain how the heavy metal concentrations are relatively low and will not be a toxicity problem in the wider sea, but could still be a localised problem. Prof Wilkins will follow on from this with further analysis of the oil, surface slicks and tar balls. He will give details on the compound present in the various samples and how the oil has weathered.

But what effects has this had on the marine food chain? Associate Professor Nick Ling from the Department of Biological Sciences will discuss the short and long-term toxicity of the oil on the marine food chain. He will consider how we can measure whether kai moana (fish, crayfish and shellfish) have been exposed to oil contamination and whether they are safe to collect.

The university’s Chair in Coastal Science Professor Chris Battershill will also address the impact of the Rena spill on the ecosystem of our coastline and the clean-up processes at a Café Scientifique on November 21 in Tauranga.

Professor Battershill will be accompanied by Andrew Berry who leads the Salvage Operations for Maritime New Zealand and will provide an update on the salvage operation. Also in attendance will be visiting Geophysics Professor Mal Heron from James Cook University, who can comment on Australia’s recent ship grounding incidents.

The Tauranga Café Scientifique will be held on Monday November 21, 7.30pm, Alimento Café, 72 First Avenue, Tauranga.

Both evenings are free and open to the public.


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