This month we are speaking with NZ journalist Naomi Arnold. Naomi has has written articles around science, conservation and the environment for publications world-wide including The National Geographic, The Washington Post, The BBC and The Guardian. She shares with us some of her knowledge about seaweed and science!
Hi Naomi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself:
Hi! I am a freelance journalist in New Zealand with a special interest in writing stories on science, conservation, and the environment, which have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Travel, and New Zealand Geographic. I published a book on astronomy, Southern Nights, with HarperCollins in 2019. I live in a green, quiet country valley north of Nelson and love exploring the wild places near my home; we are lucky to live in the middle of three national parks.
What’s something stand-out you’ve learned in your research for stories around seaweed/ ocean life?
That seaweed is such an under-appreciated natural wonder! I grew up near the beach in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, and I’m used to thinking of seaweed as just washed-up ocean debris, or something that keen gardeners pick up for compost. But is really is a miracle plant. Seaweed produces 70% of the oxygen on Earth and is a vital habitat for creatures of all kinds, forming the basis of the ocean food web. It’s also an important way we can sequester carbon.
Seaweed is a key asset in our fight against climate change, as the most effective natural way of absorbing carbon emissions. It grows much faster than trees, and all without water or fertilisers. It’s not just good for our diet either - adding seaweed to livestock feed can reduce methane (a greenhouse gas) emissions by 70%. We don’t have lots of large-scale ocean seaweed farms yet, but interest is high and research is underway.
On a personal level, how do you experiment with health and wellbeing practices?
Health-wise, I’ll try anything that’s research-backed, fits into my life and makes sense to me. As a high-school cross-country and track athlete, I still like to try new forms of exercise, and yoga helps me with mobility. I love all different cuisines and am a keen cook.
They don’t quite go together, but butter, Korean ssamjang, (a spicy soybean paste) and I always need sushi rice on hand.
What is your favourite way to cook with seaweed?
My absolute favourite lazy meal is a bowl of hot and tangy sushi rice seasoned with salt and sesame and wrapped with salty, crispy pieces of gim/kim (Korean seasoned seaweed) or cabbage or lettuce leaves, and a dab of ssamjang. I am obsessed with it. It takes me back to my three years spent living in South Korea. I add any leftover cooked meat and raw carrots too, but I do miss the beautiful array of banchan (side dishes) that would be served in Korea.
Wakame, Dulse or Sea Spaghetti?
Wakame! Recently I made a delicious wakame soup (miyeok guk) for my friend after she gave birth - a traditional Korean soup for post-natal mums as it’s so hearty and high in nutrients.
Naomi has written a book about the night sky of NZ, you can check it out here: https://www.harpercollins.co.nz/9781775541288/southern-nights/ or via her website.
She also wrote a really interesting article for Les Mills about the 'The Planet Healing Potential of Seaweed' which you can read here.