BOURNE, MA, January 24, 2014 — A scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is asking for the public’s help in tracking radiation along the West Coast of the United States, following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor disaster in Japan. Onset TidbiT® water temperature data loggers will be used as part of the work.

Ken Buesseler, WHOI senior scientist and director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity (CMER), decided to “crowd source” the study after he was told there would be no federal funding for the project due to recent budget cuts.

Buesseler was one of a number of scientists who rushed in to get closer to the Fukushima reactor in 2011 and gather data about how the radiation was dispersing throughout the ocean. Now, two years later, it is becoming clear that radiation reaching the United States will peak in 2014 and 2015.

He emphasizes that the level of radiation reaching the U.S. poses no threat to human health, even at its peak. He says it’s important to know what the level is, nevertheless.

“Whether or not you agree with predictions that levels of radiation along the Pacific Coast of North America will be too low to be of human health concern or to impact fisheries and marine life, we can all agree that radiation should be monitored, and we are asking for your help to make that happen,” he said.

To track the radiation peak, Buesseler has set up a web site, www.ourradioactiveocean.org. Using that site, members of the public can request a kit that allows them to take a water sample at a dock or beach on the West Coast of the U.S. or along the Alaskan coast. A tax-deductible donation of $550 to $600, depending on the location, is needed to cover the cost of shipping the sample back to Buessler’s lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as well as the cost of performing the isotope analysis.

Inside each water collection kit, Buesseler has stowed an Onset Tidbit, a data logger the size of a half-dollar. The logger will record the temperature and time, allowing him to know precisely when the water sample was taken, which will help inform the scientific community about the ocean currents in that sample area.

“Having a temperature measurement along with a radioactivity measurement turns out to be key to interpreting why radioactivity might be different in one place or another,” he said.

You can hear a podcast recording of Buesseler describing his research at /files/Fukushima-podcast.mp3 and learn more about the project at www.ourradioactiveocean.org.


Evan Lubofsky, Onset
Direct Tel. 508-743-3181

Onset Computer Corporation
Tel. 1-800-564-4377 / 508-759-9500
Fax: 508-759-9100

About Onset: 

Onset is the world’s leading supplier of data loggers. The company’s HOBO data logger and weather station products are used around the world in a broad range of applications, including building energy performance monitoring, water resources management, and ecological and agricultural research. Based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Onset has been designing and manufacturing its HOBO data loggers on site since the company's founding in 1981. Visit Onset on the web at onsetcomp.com.

ABOUT WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu.