Science and environment

Prof David Nutt: Psilocybin trial treats major depression

The psychedelic drug psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, is as good at reducing symptoms of depression as conventional treatment, a small, early-stage trial has suggested. The study, run by Imperial College London's Centre for Psychedelic Research, is among the first to test psilocybin against the usual drug treatment, an SSRI, in this case Escitalopram. Prof David Nutt is the Deputy Head of the Centre, and co-author of the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week. He is the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at Imperial College London.

Prof David Nutt: Psilocybin trial treats major depression
0:00 / 22:29
Science and environment

Food growing land being eaten up – report

A new report paints a stark picture of the environment under relentless pressure with urban sprawl and dairy intensification swallowing up productive food growing land. The Environment Ministry and Stats NZ report documents land use in recent decades. It is the latest in a series of environmental reports based on themes such as air, marine, freshwater, and climate. The report finds the area of highly productive land lost to housing increased by 54 percent between 2002 and 2019. In the past 25 years land use has intensified - more livestock, fertilisers and irrigation - although overall there are actually fewer farms producing more product on less land. Kathryn speaks with MFE Chief Science Advisor Alison Collins,  Associate Professor Amanda Black, of Bio Protection Aotearoa at Lincoln University, and Mike Chapman, Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive.

Food growing land being eaten up – report
0:00 / 24:25
Science and environment

Critter of the Week – Myosotis petiolata

This week’s critter is the Hawkes Bay Forget-Me-Not. The Hawkes bay forget-me-not, Myosotis petiolata, might be the most endangered plant in the country. There is just one clump of this beautiful flowering plant clinging on to life in a limestone crevice in the Te Waka range, inland from Napier.

Critter of the Week – Myosotis petiolata
0:00 / 14:18
Science and environment

Recording marine mammals and unlocking their secrets

The Cawthron Institute has been recording marine mammals around Aotearoa in a bid to find out more about them and find ways to better protect them. The institute's marine mammal ecologist, Dr Deanna Clement, talks to Jesse about what they have learnt from listening to the sound of life underwater.

Recording marine mammals and unlocking their secrets
0:00 / 8:57
Science and environment

Environmentally harmful food production must change

An environmental advocacy group says a new report shows farmers need to change how they produce food. The Environment Ministry and Stats NZ's Our Land 2021 -paints a stark picture of the environment under relentless pressure. One finding is that the country's best land for growing food is being eaten up by housing developments. Forest and Bird's agriculture spokesperson Annabeth Cohen speaks to Joe Porter.

Environmentally harmful food production must change
0:00 / 3:43
Science and environment

2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize winners

There are some familiar faces as well as some new names among the Prime Minister’s Science Prize winners this year. Two of the five prizes are awarded for efforts to better understand and communicate the Covid-19 pandemic. The five Prime Minister’s Science Prizes are New Zealand’s most valuable research awards. Awarded annually, they are worth nearly $1 million. A real team effort The team prize, worth half a million, has been awarded to a consortium of 24 researchers working together in the field of complexity science as part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a Centre of Research Excellence. In early 2020, director Shaun Hendy saw that there was a gap in providing the New Zealand Government with the data science it needed to make informed decisions about responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. He assembled a multi-disciplinary team that developed a series of new mathematical models and ran a multitude of different scenarios to inform the unique situation that New Zealand found itself in. The team has done modelling work and analysis on a wide number of areas, including hospital capability, contagion rates and likely disease spread, virus genomic tracing, contact tracing, and vaccination. The results of this work were translated for use by the government policymakers and front-line operators and helped inform the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Among other actions, this led to the government’s ‘Go Hard and Go Early’ mantra that resulted in stringent lockdowns - both the country-wide lockdown beginning in March 2020 and the tailored Auckland lockdown beginning in August 2020. Hendy and University of Auckland colleague Siouxsie Wiles have both been active spokespeople on the subject of Covid-19. Hendy says the team’s work is not finished yet. He adds "we will be leaving our tools, making them open so they can be maintained in perpetuity, so next time we meet an infectious disease crisis they are there for people to use." Technology a winner in Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize Sarah Washbrooke, from Remarkables Primary School in Queenstown, is the first technology winner of the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize. She uses a hands-on approach to teaching technology which is so engaging that her students often remain unaware of the depth and range of learning they are doing. Washbrooke likes to engage her students by offering them real life authentic projects. She also involves the wider Wakatipu community in setting challenges. Winning research on climate change and ocean acidification The 2020 Prime Minister’s Emerging Scientist Prize has gone to marine biologist Chris Cornwall from Victoria University of Wellington. The focus of his research involves calcifying species such as the familiar pink coralline algae, which is a foundation species for both coral and rocky reefs. He is also interested in how well pāua and kina will cope as increasing carbon dioxide absorption in the ocean causes water to slowly acidify. He says that different species respond differently and expects to see a change in the species composition of reefs over the coming decades as some species do well while others decline. Listen to the podcast to hear modeller Shaun Hendy and disinformation expert Kate Hannah from Te Pūnaha Matatini, marine biologist Chris Cornwall and technology teacher Sarah Washbrooke talk more about their research. Talking about Covid-19 University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker’s media marathon on the topic of Covid-19 has been recognised with the 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize. Baker says he developed a concept of Covid-19 elimination and concluded that it was the optimal response strategy. Baker has done more than 2000 interviews since January 2020, contributing more than 30 percent of the total science outputs recorded for the 70 commentators tracked by the Science Media Centre. He describes the period at the start of March 2020 just before New Zealand went into lockdown as "the most intense period of my working life". Testing a quantum computer proves prize-worthy for student James Zingel, a former student from Bethlehem College in Tauranga, has been selected as the 2020 Prime Minister’s Future Science Prize Winner. Zingel’s research project used a breast cancer dataset run through both a classical computer and a quantum computer. He wanted to see which is superior in analysing the data and determining the type of breast cancer present. He found that the classical computer performed better but expects the quantum computer’s ability will improve in future.

2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize winners
0:00 / 32:06
Science and environment

Covid-19: Pandemic clears Mt Everest traffic jam

Before Covid-19 threw cold water on international travel, we were agog at pictures of traffic jams on the peak of Mount Everest. Overcrowding was a major problem during the 2019 climbing season, leading to a rise in deaths as climbers were crampon-to-crampon. Has Covid-19 solved that? New Zealand adventure tourism operator Adventure Consultants, which ran expeditions to the top of Everest, says it will temporarily close until at least 2022 due to the pandemic. B illi Bierling is a mountaineer and journalist based in Kathmandu. She spoke to Morning Report.

Covid-19: Pandemic clears Mt Everest traffic jam
0:00 / 4:33
Science and environment

Investigations into killings of gannets at Muriwai colony

Conservationists are dumbfounded as to why anyone would travel to Muriwai's much-loved gannet colony with an air gun and slaughter eight birds. Police are investigating who is responsible for the killings, which are believed to have happened when Auckland was in its most recent level 3 lockdown last month. Our producer Matthew Theunissen asked Auckland Council's principal ranger for western regional parks Stephen Bell what happened.

Investigations into killings of gannets at Muriwai colony
0:00 / 4:44
Science and environment

Why negative thoughts intrude just before we go to bed!

Ever gone down a negative rabbithole of thoughts just before bed? It's a widespread problem and that late night rumination causes a lot of people fatigue and, annoyingly, more worry! Professor of Clinical Neuroscience Sean Drummond, who's the director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Programme at Monash University, tells Jesse why worries invade our mind just as we are trying to sleep.

Why negative thoughts intrude just before we go to bed!
0:00 / 10:49
Science and environment

Teen wins science prize for quantum computing research

19 year old James Zingel has won the Prime Minister's future science prize for his research into whether quantum computing could improve breast cancer diagnosis. His research project, started while still at Bethlehem College in Tauranga, used a breast cancer dataset to compare a classic computer and a quantum computer to see which is better at analysing the data and determining the type of breast cancer present. His research found the classical method is better than the quantum one, but James believes that will change soon.

Teen wins science prize for quantum computing research
0:00 / 10:26
Science and environment

The battleground in paradise over a Waiheke marina

Developers and locals fighting over a planned marina on Waiheke Island are holding an urgent meeting today after a protest on the water forced work to stop on the project. The Kennedy Point Marina has been described by one campaigner as an offensive, elitist edifice - but the developers say they have the legal consent to go ahead with it. A group of protesters who have been camping on the beach have vowed to stay there until the marina plans are scrapped. They claimed a victory on Monday after a protesting kayaker blocked a barge that was scheduled to start work removing rocks in Putiki Bay. Work has stopped for now but the company, Kennedy Point Boatharbour has won the legal battle so far. Today, The Detail profiles the main players in the dispute, with the developer on one side and locals, iwi and environmentalists on the other. The saga is complicated further by the split in Ngāti Pāoa and the division among residents. "It’s almost like a flashpoint of change on Waiheke Island," says NZME's property editor Anne Gibson. "This has become a central argument where people are saying, ‘we don't want this here’. "There's a perception on the island with all those amenities and facilities …. it’s not the sort of thing that people on the island want. That's not why they go there, they actually go there to be in a different time from Auckland, they don't want Auckland going there." Auckland Council granted Kennedy Point Marina resource consent in 2016. Since then, says Gibson, the developer has downsized the scale of the plan because of very strong local opposition. The project, led by Tony Mair, who has developed 17 marinas in New Zealand and overseas, includes about 180 berths, a floating carpark, and onshore facilities and services such as sewage containment. The cheapest berth sells for $180,000 and Gibson says at least 150 have sold. The residents’ group, Save Kennedy Point or SKP, has gone to the Environment Court, then the High Court and the Court of Appeal to try to get the consent overturned but has failed. In a last ditch legal bid it has appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court ruling and allow SKP to go back to the Environment Court to challenge the basis of the Auckland Council consent. A decision is expected later this month but the developers have already started work, stating they have the resource consent to build. "If they've sold 150 out of 186 berths then those berth holders are expecting to get the product that they have paid for," Gibson says. Putiki Bay is lined with pohutukawa trees, with dinghies lying on the sand. Calm blue water laps the beach, where a couple of tents sit, flying protest flags. Just metres away is an enormous barge with a crane, the Calliope. Occupiers have been camped there for several weeks and say they'll stay there until the barge leaves the bay. Stuff reporter Josephine Franks says opponents are mainly concerned about the marina's impact on the environment and the threat to the little blue penguin, the kororā, which nest in the bay. Tony Mair in a promotional video says the marina will "incorporate a floating breakwater which results in no dredging or reclamation and there's no interference with the intertidal zone". He goes on to say the developers will "continue to take guidance from the experts to create a predator control programme. This aims to protect the little blue penguins who call Kennedy Point home". But Franks says residents are sceptical. "People look at reports from council about the state of the Hauraki Gulf or they look at the rahui that's been placed around the foreshore to protect kaimoana and they are not convinced when the developers say it will be ok and we've got all these measures in place to ensure that the environmental impacts won't affect the water quality. "They're saying, I just don't know how you're going to put a marina in there and it’s not going to make it worse."

The battleground in paradise over a Waiheke marina
0:00 / 22:23

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