Science Diary: How Toxins Move - Headwaters: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Jul 09, 2007
Scientist: Michael Hochella

Science Diary: How Toxins Move - Headwaters

Science Diary: How Toxins Move - Headwaters
Geochemist Michael Hochella is ankle-deep and collecting samples in the Clark Fork River's headwaters.

Science Diary: How Toxins Move - Headwaters

Music; Ambience: water, bird song, river

JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. We're with Virginia Tech Geochemist Michael Hochella. He's collecting water samples from the headwaters of Montana's Clark Fork River with colleague Johnnie Moore of the University of Montana. They're hoping to learn how nanoparticles, miniscule bits of matter, might be speeding up the movement of pollution downstream from a contaminated mine site.

MH: "Well, Johnnie we're out here in the middle of the headwaters of the Clark Fork River, literally, I mean we're a little bit more than ankle-deep here. I guess, looking for places to collect the water sample that we want. And what we're going to do here is try to collect water in your nalgene bottles without stirring up any sediment, because we want to get the nanoparticles, these really tiny particles that might hold some clues into how metals are transported down this river and how these metals interact with living things. We might find that in really tiny particles and that's just going to be here in the water, it's not going to be down in the sediment. So, how you, how you going to collect these samples?"

Johnnie: Okay, so we've waded out into the middle of the stream in one of the deeper areas, so we can get a really good sample of the entire water column, so everything from the top of the water down to near the bed. And now I'm going to lower this bottle in, starting at the top and let it fill up and as I lower it I'm going to take it all the way down to the bottom and bring it back up, so I'll sample back and forth through the whole water column, so I'll get what's called a representative sample. A sample that represents kind of everything moving in the stream."

JM: By learning more about the relationship between pollution and nanoparticles, Michael Hochella hopes that better cleanup and containment techniques can be developed to be used in contaminated areas. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.