Ever since the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant was struck by a tsunami in March 2011, the public has been concerned about the effects of radiation on the environment. When a 40-foot high wave crashed ashore that day, the plant was crippled, spilling radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean, says Ken Buesseler, a marine scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Buessler is monitoring marine radiation levels in the Pacific Ocean and along the West Coast of the United States and is asking the public to collect seawater samples. This crowdsourced effort is needed because no funding is coming from the U.S. or other governmental sources, he says.
“Whether you agree with predictions that levels of radiation along the Pacific Coast of North America will be too low to be a human health concern or to affect marine life, we can all agree that radiation should be monitored, and we are asking for your help to make that happen,” explains Buesseler, a senior scientist at WHOI and director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity (CMER).
Full disclosure: Buesseler lives here in Falmouth and is a fellow dog walker. We talk often about his work monitoring radiation levels in Fukushima and in other places around the world.
Since January 2014, the crowdsourcing campaign has collected about $24,000 from 160 donations. The funds allow Beusseler to empower citizen scientists to collect seawater samples at 24 locations along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Southern California and in the Hawaiian islands. The samples are shipped to Buesseler’s CMER lab in Woods Hole, Mass., for analysis. Once analyzed, Buesseler posts the results online.