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Scientists to Analyze West Coast Kelp for Fukushima Radioactivity

Researcher: Our goal is 'to learn more about the distribution and transport of these materials in our world'

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Kelp forest at Anacapa Island (Photo: Dana Roeber Murray via Heal the Bay/cc/flickr)Researchers are set to embark on a project to gather samples of kelp from the U.S. West Coast and analyze them for potential radioactive contamination caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster unleashed nearly three years ago.

Called "Kelp Watch 2014," the campaign led by researchers from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will analyze how ocean currents might have carried over Fukushima radioactivity to California's kelp forest, which the researchers describe as "a highly productive and complex ecosystem and a valuable state resource."

"What I have attempted to do is to organize marine scientists and educators from up and down the coastline to collect a large amount of kelp several times a year so that we can ascertain the amount of radioactive material entering our kelp forests," explained CSULB Biology Professor Steven L. Manley, one of the two scientists that initiated the project, in a statement.

"We have two main objectives," added Kai Vetter, Berkeley Lab’s Head of Applied Nuclear Physics, who initiated the project with Manley. "To learn more about the distribution and transport of these materials in our world, and to make the results and explanations available to the public."

"The best result would be that we don’t see any [radioactivity]," U-T San Diego reports Manley as saying. "But if it gets into the kelp forest ecosystem, I want to know how much is there and whether it has an affect on marine life. This is one of the most important types of ecosystems on Earth."

Manley has previously studied Fukushima radioactivity on kelp in California.  He and another colleague from CSULB analyzed samples from seven spots along the state's coast just after the March 2011 accident and found higher than normal levels of levels of Iodine 131, a radioisotope that dissipates quickly and that Manley said did not present a threat to human health.



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