UC Science Radio Season 2: Episode 11
Sarah Guy: Is our kai moana radioactive?
Should we be worried about radioactivity in our kai moana? Sarah Guy is the person to ask.
Sarah is a University of Canterbury PhD student researching emerging environmental contaminants that may affect human health. Specifically, she looks at exposure to radioactivity through ingestion of shellfish. In this episode, hear about what she’s learned, how she came to study environmental science at UC, and why it’s a perfect fit for her.
In this episode
0.52 my research is focusing on radioactivity in food, so trying to investigate exposure of the New Zealand population to radionuclides by ingestion of food.
1.14 the whole project started in 2011 after the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukishima, so there was concern of radionuclides making their way into the Pacific and then accumulating in shellfish
1.35 two projects were put in place and those projects decided to investigate, not just the radionuclides from Fukishima, but actually any kind of radioactivity you could find in all the food around New Zealand.
2.40 a nuclide is an element that is unstable due to an excess of energy in the nucleus and by emission of this energy, the nuclide will decay to another nuclide and then all the way down the line, it's finally going to reach a stable element.
4.02 Shellfish pick up a lot of chemicals in the water. They're filter-feeders, so anything that is in the water, they will accumulate them in quite high levels.
5.54 The beauty of environmental science, is that there is a high diversity of tasks.
6.06 I love the development of the project, so trying to find a method, and then testing, adjusting, oh this doesn’t work, what can we do to make it work?
6.59 I've always liked biology and chemistry, and I always knew I wanted to do a job related to human health
7.46 the environment has always been quite important in my life. I'm an outdoors person, I love being out there, so I think environmental chemistry was definitely a good match between those two aspects of my life.
8.02 Food safety, in general, it is very important for human health. I mean, it’s what you drink, what you eat every day, you don't want to like intoxicate yourself with some chemical.
9.15 there is a quite high chance that those changes we see in the ocean—the change in temperature and pH, and obviously change in algae concentration—will lead to a different pathway, like a different level of accumulation.
9.37 the climate change issue is not just a matter of temperature, and a matter of there will be more rain/there will be less rain, it will warmer/it will colder, it's actually involving so much more, and that we're gonna have to rethink so many aspects of feeding people and ecosystem health.
Read a transcript of the full interview.
Meet our speakers
Sarah Guy is a PhD student in the at UC. Her research focuses on emerging environmental contaminants that may affect human health. Specifically, she looks at exposure to radioactivity through ingestion of shellfish.
"The beauty of environmental science, is that there is a high diversity of tasks. You don't spend your whole day just doing one thing, or your whole four years just doing one thing. That's one of the very attractive things of environmental science in general."
Molly Magid is an MSc student at UC. A recent graduate of Brown University, Molly is working on research in conservation genomics with Associate Professor Tammy Steeves from the School of Biological Sciences. Molly is passionate about finding ways to communicate science to the public in a clear, novel, and engaging ways. Most recently, Molly worked as the lead student producer on the podcast Possibly, which answers listener's questions about sustainability using relevant science research.