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Expert: Parasites ‘never seen before’ are washing up on West Coast; Finding unidentifiable creatures ‘new to science’… “We’re worried” — Scientist anticipates Fukushima radiation will cause marine bacteria in U.S. to mutate

Published: October 1st, 2015 at 2:10 pm ET
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National Science Foundation research proposal by Bethany Kolody, NSF graduate research fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (emphasis added):

Impacts of Radioactive 137Cs on Marine Bacterioplankton: Effects of the Fukushima Disaster on Hawaii’s Kaneohe Bay Bacterial Communities

Introduction: … Despite our dependence on marine bacteria, very little research has been conducted on how they respond to large-scale disasters… Fukushima Daiichi [is] the largest ever release of anthropogenic radionuclides into the ocean. The main pollutant, 137Cs…  will first hit the US territories at the Hawaiian Pacific Islands in early 2014, diluted by only three orders of magnitude… the impacts of radioactive waste on marine microorganisms are largely unknown. Due to their short reproductive lifecycle and unicellularity, bacteria evolve faster than most eukaryotes when exposed to radiation, so much so that radiation is used in laboratories to induce mutagenesis. This project aims to assess the impacts of radiation on the bacterioplankton community of Kaneohe Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. The bay is in the direct path of Fukushima’s radioactive waste and has a bacterioplankton community that was well-characterized pre-disturbance, making it the ideal case study for the microscopic impacts of radioactive pollution. I will compare trends after radiation exposure to previously documented annual/seasonal fluctuations…

Research Questions: 1. How has the bacterioplankton species composition in Kaneohe Bay… changed since the Fukushima leak? — 2. Has there been a significant increase in single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) since the radiation event, as compared to mutation rates that would occur due to random chance?…

Anticipated Results: 1. The bacterial community structure will change significantly more than due to random chance. — 2. Post-Fukushima species will have significantly more nonsense and missense mutations in non-essential genes and neutral mutations in housekeeping genes than would have accumulated due to random chance…

Broader Impacts:  This research will help characterize the full repercussions of radioactive pollution… It will reduce the knowledge gap of what potential harm radioactivity causes marine microbial communities, and give policy makers the information they need to manage affected ecosystems… This study will also characterize the impact of radiation on pathogenic bacteria in coastal communities, which is crucial to fully assessing the impact of radioactive waste on human and environmental health.

Associated Press, Feb 26, 2015: An estimated 300 different invasive species have drifted across the Pacific on tsunami debris, [John Calvanese, an Oregon State graduate student] said. Most are small invertebrates. Many are unidentifiable, either because they are in a stage of life not recognized by scientists or they are new to science. “Debris is still coming across the ocean,” Chapman said. “We know there is this conveyor of species from Asia land on our shores. We’ve found parasites inside mussels that came across, mussels themselves that are strange, and oysters with parasites that have never been seen before, even in Asia. We’re worried.”

See also: High concentrations of radioactive cesium found in plankton — “So heavily contaminated”

Published: October 1st, 2015 at 2:10 pm ET
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768 comments

768 comments to Expert: Parasites ‘never seen before’ are washing up on West Coast; Finding unidentifiable creatures ‘new to science’… “We’re worried” — Scientist anticipates Fukushima radiation will cause marine bacteria in U.S. to mutate

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