Overview of thesis
The Montebello Islands Archipelago lies within the Montebello/Barrow Islands Marine Park, 60 km off the West Australian coastline. The area was once the ground of three nuclear weapon tests by the UK government from 1953-1956. The tests, Operation Hurricane and Operation Mosaic G1 & G2, and the radioactive contamination they introduced to the islands were investigated minimally after the detonations for unknown reasons. Subsequently, there has been little research of the impact radioactivity had had on the organisms that reside in the region. My project will investigate the extent of radioactive contamination as it exists today, specifically in the marine environment where even less information exists. By determining how radionuclides move through different ecological compartments we can evaluate the risk to organisms who inhabit the system. Emphasis will be put on the analysis of trophic transfer and sediment remobilisation in this assessment as they are parameters of high importance in this island region.
Recent research, published in August 2019, has revealed that radioactive contamination from the nuclear tests is still present on land, within the seabed and within organisms. This project will build on the current limited dataset to produce a spatial distribution of radionuclides in the archipelago via comprehensive analysis of marine matrices and organisms. The radionuclides to be studied include, amongst others, 90Sr, 137Cs, 234, 235, 238U, 238,239,240Pu and 241Am. Natural radionuclides such as 210Pb, 210Po and Ra isotopes will be used as tracers of key processes, such as land to ocean transfer and seabed accumulation rates. The data will then be used to model the dispersion and movement of radionuclides, specifically in this system so we may understand potential future risks and where radioactive legacies may be found in the decades to come. Doses to organisms will be assessed with biokinetic methods, aiming to contribute to our understanding of risk to wildlife in the region.
Scholarships and Awards
Ms Madison Hoffman
Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
School of Science
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