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September 28, 2013
By Coleman Cornelius
Radiation scientists at Colorado State University are the first representatives of an American university to have entered the shuttered exclusion zone surrounding the disabled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan to collect samples of soil and plant material for analysis of radioactivity.
The investigative trip in June was a rare scientific opportunity after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 triggered a nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive material, causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster of the new millennium.
The sample collection – expected to take a year to fully evaluate – involved scientists from the University of Tokyo and Fukushima University and resulted from a partnership between CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and some of Japan’s top universities and health institutions. The project will be the focus of a presentation on Oct. 3 called “Radiation Risks and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Measurements and Myths,” featuring two Japanese researchers who accompanied CSU scientists in the evacuated zone.
The presentation is part of a three-day conference at CSU called the International Colloquium on Global One Health, highlighting compelling research projects with problem-solving potential at the confluence of human, animal, and environmental health. CSU’s radiological work with Japanese collaborators is but one example of the burgeoning One Health scientific movement.
“The samples we collected are precious,” said Georg Steinhauser, an assistant professor in the CSU Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences and one of five people in the Fukushima investigative party. “I’d compare the material we got to moon rock in the field of planetology.”
Recent leaks of contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific Ocean have alarmed scientists and citizens alike. At the same time, there are unanswered questions about levels of radioactivity in soil and plant matter, and the potential impact on people, animals, and the environment, said Thomas Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences and another member of the research team.
Johnson called the Fukushima calamity “the most important radiological event of the new millennium,” and its inclusion in the One Health colloquium exemplifies CSU’s collaborative teaching, research, and outreach on pressing international problems.
Much of this One Health work – on issues including global environmental change, infectious disease, business sustainability models, food security, and wildlife conservation – will be highlighted during more than a dozen panel discussions and presentations during CSU’s fourth international colloquium.
All the presentations are free and open to the public, and all are set in the Lory Student Center on campus. For a complete list of sessions, visit the website.
“The International Colloquium on Global One Health is a wonderful example of how to facilitate cross-campus dialogue on a critically important topic,” said Jim Cooney, CSU vice provost for International Affairs.
The CSU event precedes the second Global Risk Forum One Health Summit, set next month in Davos Switzerland. The summit will convene a brain trust of scientists and policy makers to identify urgent issues and interdisciplinary problem-solving strategies on the broad issues of human, animal, and environmental health; agriculture; and food safety and security.
“With its expertise in these fields, CSU is uniquely positioned to build a substantial One Health program and to make significant contributions to help feed the world while enhancing animal, human, and ecosystem health,” said Mark Stetter, an organizer of the CSU event who is a veterinarian and dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The annual colloquium is just one reason CSU President Tony Frank will travel to Washington, D.C., in November to receive a 2013 Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization,which recognizes excellence in integrating international education across all aspects of college and university campuses. The award is conferred by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
Tuesday, Oct. 1
Wednesday, Oct. 2
Thursday, Oct. 3
The International Colloquium on Global One Health is sponsored by the CSU Office of International Programs, Office of the Vice President for Research, and College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.