How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?

How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?

The release of radioactive contaminants from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains an unprecedented event for the people of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Help scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reveal the ongoing spread of radiation across the Pacific and its evolving impacts on the ocean by contributing to their related citizen science project.

Contributions from scientists and concerned citizens around the world have left Woods Hole with samples that the institution does not have funding to analyze. Woods Hole asks citizen scientists to consider supporting its ongoing effort to analyze samples from throughout the Pacific for signs of Fukushima radiation. Or citizen scientists can provide support directly to work being done at one of the locations listed on their Web site.

There currently is no U.S. or international agency monitoring the arrival of radioactive water from Fukushima along the West Coast. Although Woods Hole doesn’t expect levels to be dangerously high in the ocean or in seafood as the plume spreads across the Pacific, this is an evolving situation that demands careful, consistent monitoring to make sure predictions are true.

Fundraising—Citizen scientists wishing to propose a sampling location near them must raise the cost of testing and shipping ($550 to $600 depending on location). Woods Hole will then send a sampling kit with everything needed. The institution will also help by setting up a fundraising Web page that citizen scientists can e-mail to friends or post on favorite social media site. This will allow citizen scientists to spread the word and track their progress.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Ken Buesseler, Senior Scientist
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Fieldwork
  • COST: More than $50
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Interested citizen scientists should contact Woods Hole [] with the details of their location and how they can be reached.

See more projects in More than $50FieldworkAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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