Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Fukushima InFORM newsletter


April 2015 e-News v.2

Calvert Island Sunset. Credit: Colleen Kellogg

In an effort to communicate results in a timely manner, this e-newsletter reports on the most recent results from the InFORM monitoring network along the coast of British Columbia. In addition to the offshore seawater sampling program and monitoring of marine organisms in collaboration with partners at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Health Canada, we are collecting coastal seawater samples from fourteen communities along the BC coast. Each sample is collected by a citizen scientist and processed and analyzed by the Fukushima InFORM team at the University of Victoria and their partners across Canada and the US.      

—  InFORMative NEWS —

Observed 134-Cs 2014-2015. Credit: WHOI/ORO.Global Attention for First Fukushima Sample in BC
Citizen scientists at the Ucluelet Aquarium collected a water sample on February 19th that tested positive for very low levels of the Fukushima fingerprint isotope, Cesium-134 (half life ~2 years). This sample was collected as part of our partner's efforts at Our Radioactive Ocean. The measured amount of total radiocesium (134Cs + 137Cs) of ~7 Bq m-3 was far below the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) in drinking water of 10,000 Bq m-3 according to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality by Health Canada.  However, the result is an important indication that the next few months of monitoring will be very important for our sample collection efforts. In addition to monitoring for any risks to human and animal health, tracking the progression of the radiocesium throughout the west coast will help scientists refine and develop models of ocean current movements and ocean mixing. 

The news of this sample brought global media attention to both the InFORM network and Our Radioactive Ocean (ORO) with news organizations from Australia to Germany, and Hong Kong to Turkey reporting the findings in addition to the numerous stories from the United States and here in British Columbia. Find our coverage of the news here

InFORM results as of 10Apr15.
Recent Monitoring Results
Results from early February and March are now available from 10/13 of the InFORM sampling locations. Recent samples from Bamfield, Vancouver, and Powell River are still being processed. To date, no InFORM coastal samples have detectable (detection limit ~0.2 Bq m-3) levels of 134Cs, the radionuclide that is the fingerprint of Fukushima derived radiation due to its short half life (~2 years). An interesting note is that the February Tofino sample was collected on the 7th, just 12 days before the ORO sample collected in Ucluelet that was the first to contain measureable 134Cs. Similarly, the InFORM sample from Port Renfrew was collected on February 13th and also did not have any measureable 134Cs. These results highlight the necessity of frequent sampling in multiple locations to effectively document the arrival of the Fukushima plume along the coast of BC. The next months of sampling should illuminate the circulation times of coastal BC waters as the plume permeates our local marine environment.

All coastal samples continue to have measureable levels of 137Cs (half life ~30 years), that is likely present because of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing that happened in the 1950s and 1960s and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Elevated 137Cs, relative to other InFORM samples, was measured in the 19-Feb sample at Ucluelet and may be associated with the 137Cs that was released from Fukushima.   

For the most up to date results, follow us on social media (Facebook or Twitter: @FukushimaInFORM) or check out our blog.

6An InFORMal Survey
In an effort to track the level of public awareness, knowledge, and concern about Fukushima radiation along the British Columbia coast, please take a few minutes to answer these 10 brief questions. Find the survey HERE

We appreciate those that responded to the survey in March and have logged your responses.

3Get to know a Citizen Scientist
Cheryl Paavola, 42, is a science/math instructor and science lab tech at Northwest Community College in Prince Rupert. A commercial fisherman's daughter, Cheryl grew up on the water and continues to paddle on the local dragon boat team and sea kayak. In her spare time, she hunts invasive tunicates and European Green Crabs. In her work, she uses most any excuse to take her students to the beach so they can explore their environment instead of reading a textbook. 

As an InFORM citizen scientist, Cheryl has learned how social media, technology, and a team of citizen scientists can make an otherwise cost prohibitive scientific program affordable. She notes that, while no one would ever want such a disaster to happen again, we can learn an incredible amount by studying the result. Cheryl hopes that by being a part of the InFORM project she will be able to engage as many in her community as possible and looks forward to incorporating InFORM results into her teaching.

2Get to know a Scientist
Dr. Jean-Francois (JF) Mercier is leading the Canadian Radiological Monitoring Network at Health Canada's Radiation Protection Bureau in Ottawa. He joined the InFORM project with three goals in mind. The first was scientific in nature. Could the radioactive plume be tracked as it moves through Canadian waters? Would there be any reflection in fish populations? How well do the models match the observations? Second, he wants to be part of an efficient communications team which he notes is especially important for those working in government. Finally, he wants to establish long-term scientific collaborations since he feels that science is best done as part of a team where you can leverage the expertise of many individuals. JF will be leading the measurement of all the biota samples that InFORM will be collecting. 

With a personal interest for understanding both natural and man-made sources of radiation, he hopes that the public will learn from this project that radiation is around us all the time and, while important to understand and track, the Fukushima accident released a comparatively small amount of radioactivity relative to the collective global sources. 

A Mississauga native, and raised all over provincial Quebec, JF doesn't exactly remember what turned him on to being a scientist, but he thinks that the ability to wear jeans to work was a contributing factor. Currently based out of Gatineau, QC, he is looking forward to warmer weather so he can fire up the BBQ and go canoeing and camping with his family.

4Logo Contest
The Fukushima InFORM team is holding a contest for a new logo. If you, or someone you know, are a talented graphic designer that would be interested in helping us develop our brand. Submit a logo to jkellogg [at] (subject: InFORM%20Logo%20Contest, body: Dear%20Dr.%20Kellogg%2C%C2%A0%0APlease%20find%20attached%20my%20submission%20to%20the%20Fukushima%20InFORM%20logo%20contest.%20Thank%20you%20for%20your%20consideration.%C2%A0) (Dr. Jonathan Kellogg) by May 1st for full consideration. All submissions should:

  • full color submissions should be accompanied by a 2-3 color option
  • be professional and legible
  • promote the principles of the Fukushima InFORM team and its partners
  • NOT contain any copyrighted material or licensed material
  • be easily reproducible and scalable for both large and small formatting
  • be in a vector graphic (.svg, .ai, .eps) format (for clarification, please contact us)

Submissions will be voted on and the winner may have their logo appear on our mailings, website, social media, and schwag. A selection of schwag will be mailed to the winner upon completion of production.

Fukushima InFORM is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR), which is hosted at Dalhousie University, and funded by the Government of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence Program

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