Completed Projects

These projects connected communities with scientists as they investigated a wide variety of topics, from moths to cats, home heating to water quality, and more. More details on the completed projects are available from the relevant Project Leaders below, or from Otago Science Into Action coordinator Craig Grant.

1. Shedding Light on the Night: Nocturnal Biodiversity in the Otago Region

  • Collecting and sharing data on moths and other nocturnal pollinators in Otago
  • Investigating if artificial light affects these pollinators


Relatively little is known about Lepidoptera in Otago, despite the fact that they are critical pollinators and a food source for wider ecosystems. How many moths are there in Otago? Where are they found? What species do they represent? Are they affected by artificial light, and, if so, how? To answer some of these questions, schools and communities across the region teamed up with Orokonui Ecosanctuary and scientists from Landcare Research and the University of Otago.


Data was uploaded to the MothNet project page on NatureWatchNZ, where anyone can continue to add observations. The team have created user-friendly guides to make this as easy as possible. Getting communities, and especially kids, excited about moths was a key goal. Scientists worked with kids to support their interest in ecology and entomology, act as mentors and encourage them to get amongst it.


Check out the MothNet website, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or join their Facebook group. Get involved by adding your own observations to the MothNet project on NatureWatchNZ.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Barbara Anderson (Landcare Research)

2. The Conservation of the Great Crested Grebe

  • Investigating great crested grebe nest failure in a Southern Alpine Lake
  • Using research findings to improve the design, fabrication and attachment of artificial nest sites to a floating marina and to lake beds


Extinct in the North Island and with only 600 birds surviving in the South Island, the native great crested grebe is a rare and threatened species. To improve its chances of survival, artificial nest sites were set up at Roys Bay Marina on Lake Wanaka in 2013. From the single pair that the programme started with, numbers have risen to over 30 pairs, and since its inception 153 chicks have fledged from this area.


Local school children connected with scientists to monitor the movements, courtship, egg laying, incubation spans and hatchings of the grebes. Their observations were complemented by 24/7 surveillance footage from video cameras focused on individual nest sites.


Though the funded project has finished, local community volunteers are continuing with its work. The data is providing insight into factors that may lead to nest failures, and how artificial nests might be improved to increase the chances of success.


Follow the grebes on Facebook, check out the ‘grebe cam’ or visit the grebe’s website to find out more.

Funding: $17,980
Contact: John Darby (Lake Wanaka Trust)

3. Shining a Light on Our Environment

  • Developing a low-cost kit for water quality monitoring and biodiversity conservation
  • Bringing students, local groups and experts together to test the efficiency of the kit


Students from St Kevin’s College and Papakaio School, members of the Lower Waitaki River Management Society (LWRMS) and spectrometry experts from the University of Otago worked together to monitor water quality in the Waitaki District. This area is seeing an increase in intensive farming and irrigation, which runs the risk of negatively impacting water quality.


They used the Public Lab Kit, a small, affordable kit used by citizen scientists to detect water contaminants. After determining the accuracy of the kit, it became the basis for a prototype water-testing kit developed specifically for local community use.


Funding: $14,679
Contact: Max Crowe (Lower Waitaki River Management Society)

4. Living Rooms – Heat and Moisture in North East Valley Homes

  • Collecting and sharing data on heating patterns, temperatures and moisture in homes
  • Investigating how homes can be warm and dry at an affordable price


By studying the specific heating and humidity needs of ten North East Valley homes, community groups worked with scientists to test the effectiveness of standard retrofitting. Their aim was to discover how to efficiently minimise energy while maximising temperatures.


Current heating and humidity upgrade strategies – insulating the ceiling, underfloor and walls, reducing draughts, installing double glazing – assume that houses are being heated throughout at all time to 18-20 degrees Celsius. Dunedin-based research shows that this is only true for 5% of the houses surveyed. That means standard upgrade plans may not be useful for many homes in the area.


One of the successes of this project was the creation of open source wireless indoor weather stations in association with Dunedin Makerspace.


Find out more about the project, request an indoor weather station and get involved on the Valley Community Workspace website and Facebook page.


Funding: $19,750
Contact: Tim Bishop (Valley Community Workspace Inc.)

5. How Safe is My Cat? A Community Assessment of the Safety of Domestic Cats in Pest Control Project Areas

  • Discovering where domestic cats go, what they do and how safe they are around pest traps
  • Using information collected to inform pest management locally and nationally


Domestic cats roam far and wide, with their travels taking them through areas frequented by pests. Traps are often set for these pests, but how do they affect pets?


That question was the central focus of this project, which involved twelve pet cats owned by kids from Waitati, Karitane, Port Chalmers and Purakaunui schools. The cats’ movements were tracked using GPS and video cameras, providing a picture of their range and activity.


Data from the project may be able to help local and national efforts to catch pests, not pets.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Rhys Millar (Landscape Connections Trust)

6.  Monitoring and Control of Codling Moth in Central Otago

  • Researching codling moth and leafroller infestations in the Wanaka area
  • Investigating the effectiveness of pest control methods


Wanaka Primary School pupils worked with staff at the Plant and Food Research station in Clyde to trap codling moth and monitor local infestations. They used the information they collected to customise pest control methods in use around the country to be effective in and around Wanaka.


Students also used timed searches and traps on selected plants to study the composition of the leafroller species in the area.


Codling moth and leafroller larvae eat their way into pip-fruit to the seeds. This damages the fruit and leaves tell-tale holes filled with frass (the excrement/debris produced by the caterpillar). The codling moth problem is becoming more widespread in Wanaka and the surrounding area, with over 80% of fruit on trees showing codling moth damage.


Funding: $8,194
Contact: Sharon Pendlebury (Wanaka Primary School)

7.  Lighting the Way for Visually Impaired Persons (VIPs)

  • Investigating the amount of light VIPs need to function and avoid injury
  • Finding solutions for any lighting deficits identified


This project connected members of the Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (VICTA) with Otago Polytechnic’s School of Occupational Therapy to look into how much light those with low vision need to get around and do things safely.


In Phase One, the project was introduced to community groups like Age Concern and VICTA; the light level needs of a small group of participants were tested in Phase Two. Phases Three and Four focused on finding solutions and developing products to help VIPs navigate their environments safely and successfully.


Funding: $15,777
Contact: Mary Butler (Otago Polytechnic and Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (NZ))