Researchers use Snakes to monitor Fukushima Radiation

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Key Highlights:

  • Researchers employ snakes to measure radiation levels around Fukushima.
  •  Study reveals that snakes are good indicators of environmental contamination.
  • The researchers collected nine rat snakes and wrapped tape over their bodies before supergluing the GPS and VHF transmitters.

Employing snakes to monitor radiation levels

As work to clean up the mess left by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown in 2011 continues, experts are enlisting some local assistance in their efforts to assess the damage. With the assistance of GPS and VHF tags, snakes residing in the Exclusion Zone can act as living, breathing monitors of radiation levels in the region, according to research.

The concept of employing snakes to measure radiation levels around Fukushima originated from a group of University of Georgia researchers who were drawn to a specific species for a few crucial reasons. The rat snake is a common species in Japan, where it generally travels short distances and accumulates significant amounts of radionuclides. Because of their restricted mobility, frequent close contact with the soil, and proclivity to absorb radioactive material, they serve as a good “bioindicator” of residual contamination in the region.

Good Indicators of Environment Contamination

The crew saw snakes in trees, meadows, and along roadside streams while working in the steep, harsh environment of abandoned villages and farms. The snakes avoided the interiors of conifer woods but were frequently discovered in deciduous forests, along forest margins, and within abandoned houses, according to Gerke. She claims that more than half of the snakes monitored spent time in abandoned barns and sheds, which can protect them from contamination in the surrounding soil.

“Snakes are good indicators of environmental contamination because they spend a lot of time in and on soil,” says study author James C. Beasley. “They have small home ranges and are major predators in most ecosystems, and they’re often relatively long-lived species.”

Tracking Snakes

The researchers collected nine rat snakes and wrapped tape over their bodies before supergluing the GPS and VHF transmitters on top, which allowed them to be readily removed afterward. The creatures were monitored as they slithered across the Exclusion Zone, however, most didn’t go very far, with each species moving an average of 65 m (213 ft) each day.

Over the course of a month, the scientists followed the snakes to 1,718 distinct places. They discovered a high connection between levels of radiocesium in the animals and levels of radiation in the areas of soil that they visited, indicating that the rat snakes may be valuable bioindicators of pollution.

“Our results indicate that animal behavior has a large impact on radiation exposure and contaminant accumulation,” says study author Hanna Gerke. “Studying how specific animals use contaminated landscapes helps increase our understanding of the environmental impacts of huge nuclear accidents such as Fukushima and Chernobyl.”

Also Read: UK Research Reveals How Much Money Businesses Could Lose Due To Air Leaks



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