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 Claire Concannon.



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 Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and the University of Otago.


Data was uploaded to the MothNet project page on NatureWatchNZ, which merged with iNaturalist. Now anyone can continue to add observations on the iNaturalist Ahi Pepe MothNet page. 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 page on iNaturalist.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Barbara Anderson

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 or check out the ‘grebe cam’

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 pet cats?


That question was the central focus of this project, which involved twelve pet cats owned by kids from WaitatiKaritanePort 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 1, 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 2. Phases 3 and 4 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))




8. What are we swimming in? Citizen science in Wanaka

  • Understanding what affects water quality in Roy’s Bay, Lake Wanaka
  • Developing a water quality monitoring plan for the lake


Students from Wanaka Primary School and Mount Aspiring College teamed up with Wanaka Lake Swimmers Clubthe Ruby Swim and Touchstone to investigate threats to the swimming experience in Lake Wanaka, such as invasive jelly-like algae called ‘lake snow’. Researchers from University of OtagoOtago Regional Council and Aspiring Environmental were also on board.


Following a workshop with specialists, the project team designed a protocol for swimmers to collect data. They also put together a survey of drains flowing into the bay, examining the quality of both storm and standing water. Local school children monitored these outflows and the lake water quality.


The rigorous study design and objective scientific measures tested the community’s concerns and observations, using accredited scientific laboratories. Their aim was to enhance the understanding of the local community and swimmers about the water quality in Lake Wanaka.


Project findings were presented at several public meetings and communication of findings included publishing several local news items, showing community activity in understanding the effects of the human environment on Lake Wanaka.


For more information on this project and others aimed at protecting Lake Wanaka, visit Touchstone’s website.


Funding: $18,204
Contact: Chris Arbuckle (Aspiring Environmental Ltd.)

9. Sugar in your diet – kino te pai!

  • Designing science experiments to measure the effects of sugar on kids’ teeth and general health
  • Improving oral hygiene and healthy eating knowledge


Do tamariki and their whānau know how much sugar is in fizzy drinks and processed foods? Are they aware of the impact sugar can have on teeth and general health?


These questions and more were explored by the children and families from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti together with researchers from the Faculty of Dentistry and Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago.


Tamariki worked with experts to create experiments that explored the effects of sugar on their bodies and teeth. They also examined the amount of sugar in their food and drink.


Throughout the project, the students and their families learned about oral hygiene, teeth brushing and healthy eating choices. Their oral health was examined at the beginning and end of the project.


Tamariki and their whānau received regular newsletters and reports, and a community hui was held in November to discuss the findings.


Related resources:


Funding: $13,700
Contact: Carolina Loch (Sir John Walsh Research Institute, University of Otago)

10. The Valley Urban Ecosanctuary

  • Creating an urban ecosanctuary for native bird species in the North East Valley
  • Developing strategies to attract native species and control predators


The long-term aim of this project is to reintroduce native species like the kākā to the North East Valley, Opoho and Pine Hill areas of North Dunedin.


The first step was to find out which native species already inhabit the area. Kids from North East Valley Normal School, Opoho School, Dunedin North Intermediate and Islington Street Early Childhood Centre collected data and uploaded their findings to NatureWatch NZ.


They designed a bird feeder that encourages native species into the valley and came up with a plan to protect these species from predators.


This project was driven by the Valley ProjectOrokonui Ecosanctuary and experts from the University of Otago, with plenty of community involvement.


Check out the Valley Project Facebook page for more information.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Eleanor Linscott (North East Valley resident)

11. Flip the Fleet: Accelerating electric vehicle uptake in Otago

  • Creating a communal database about electric vehicle performance
  • Measuring and comparing electric vehicle performance, benefits and battery function over time


At what rate do electric vehicle (EV) batteries lose their ability to hold a charge, and how far can they travel before this happens? How do car load and ‘Eco’ settings affect energy efficiency and EV range? Where should we position rapid chargers to best enable electric vehicle journeys away from home base?


To help answer these questions, members of the electric vehicle community across Otago worked with experts to design experiments and perfect software to gather and report  EV usage data – travel, charging, efficiency, cost and battery life. The project quickly spread beyond Otago so that electric vehicle owners and operators from Northland to Southland uploaded their data each month.


By the end of the first year’s Participatory Science Platform grant, Flip the Fleet amassed a communal database of 2,933 monthly records, each with between 5 and 15 EV performance measures from over 700 EVs.


Participants also filled out regular ‘1-click surveys’, answering questions about the limitations and possibilities of electric vehicle use.


Groups and institutions around Otago got involved in this drive to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles across the region. These included the Otago Chamber of Commerce and Otago Museum.


Visit the Flip the Fleet website to find out more, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Emeritus Professor Henrik Moller (Ecosystems Consultants)

12. Biodiversity monitoring on Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua

  • Measuring how predator control affects biodiversity on Quarantine Island
  • Investigating the effectiveness of predator traps


Community members and scientists joined forces to monitor moths, skinks, birds and seedlings on Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua, where predator controls have been in place since 2016. They used their findings to analyse biodiversity health on the island.


Groups who are often marginalised from scientific investigation were invited to join in, and subsidies for ferry transfers and accommodation were provided. Interviews captured personal responses to the project, and resources were developed to encourage ongoing community participation.


Join the Quarantine Island Community Facebook page or subscribe to their email newsletter to find out more.


Funding: $13,500
Contact: Kristen Bracey (Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua Community)

13. Sediment and seashores – Looking deeper

  • Assessing the structure and health of rocky reef habitats in Otago Harbour
  • Developing a new method to quantify sedimentation in the harbour


Students from primary schools around Dunedin worked with scientists to monitor important rocky reef habitats along the shores of Otago Harbour.


This followed on from the 2016 project Sediments and seashores – What are the consequences? It saw students and community groups work with scientists to set up monitoring sites, collect data and photograph marine communities in the area.


Their long-term aim is to understand the impact of dredging Otago Harbour to extend the shipping channel entering Port Chalmers to a depth of 14 metres.


In 2017, students helped develop a new technique to quantify the rate of sediment deposition and came up with a process to document community changes in relation to sediment cover and build-up.


To find out more, visit the Marine Metre Squared website, follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page.


Funding: $19,728
Contact: Sally Carson (Department of Marine Sciences, University of Otago)

14. Pukekura blue penguins – Matauranga and mathematics

  • Completing the RFID tagging of little blue penguins at Pukekura (Pilot’s Beach, Otago Peninsula) and installing an antenna to track penguin movements
  • Replacing burrows with tamper-proof nest boxes


This project is an extension of the 2016 Tracking Pukekura Penguins project, which saw around 50% of the little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) population in the area tagged with RFID chips.


In 2017, the project aimed to tag the remaining penguins at the Pukekura reserve. Burrows were replaced by new nest boxes and an antenna was installed to help track the movement of the penguins over time.


Empirical data was combined with intergenerational observation to create a more complete picture of the little blue penguin colony at Pukekura. This mix of indigenous thinking and scientific analysis will be used to develop the management plan for the penguin population.


Funding: $19,880
Contact: Hoani Langsbury (Pukekura Trust/Otago Peninsula Trust)

15. Helping Tomahawk Lagoon community look after their own backyard: the upper and lower Tomahawk lagoons

  • Continuing to survey Tomahawk Lagoon water quality and report back to the community
  • Developing an area-specific water quality monitoring kit


The Tomahawk Lagoon health team continued to survey the water quality of the upper part of the lagoon and, in 2017, extended their efforts to the lower lagoon. They also worked to develop an area-specific water quality monitoring kit, which may be used by other community groups in the future.


Students and teachers from local schools – Tahuna Normal IntermediateBayfield High SchoolJohn McGlashan College,  Otago Girls’ High School and Columba College – joined forces with community members from ECOTAGO/OCEMES and water quality experts from the University of Otago, the Department of ConservationOtago Regional Council and Otago Fish and Game.


Towards the end of the year, participants invited the local community to a 1-day symposium at which they presented their findings.


Find out more about this project by visiting their Facebook page.


Funding: $20,000
Contact: Andrew Innes (ECOTAGO)

16. Naseby dark skies

  • Investigating the optimal location for a night sky viewing platform
  • Monitoring light pollution and street lighting


Naseby – with its low level street lighting, generally clear skies and proximity to the Otago Rail Trail – is ideally located to take advantage of the growing popularity of night sky tourism.


This project aimed to find the best location for a public viewing platform, while also monitoring local light pollution and street light locations. Baseline data was used to advise the Central Otago District Council as they worked to minimise light pollution and roll out LED street lighting. This also fed into a community-wide attempt to achieve international dark skies accreditation.


Local school kids and community members got involved in workshops and training sessions given by the Dunedin Astronomical Society, who were a key partner in the project. Naseby Vision held a very successful stargazing event for both locals and holidaymakers.


To follow dark skies efforts in Naseby, check out the community Facebook page.


Funding: $8,750
Contact: John Crawford (Naseby Vision Incorporated)

17. Wakatipu snow study

  • Investigating the variability of the Wakatipu snow resource
  • Examining the implications of this for Queenstown’s community and economy


The Queenstown community will monitor the snow line and seasonal snow cover in the Wakatipu Basin. High school students and community members will photograph and recorded the elevation of the snow line on a daily basis over the winter season. Data will be compared to historical findings and photographs of these mountains.


Snow line readings will be supplemented with regular field trips to measure snow depth and density at selected transects on the mountains. To capture an indicator of snow melt, streamflow from a selected catchment will be measured and compared with river flow data from the Shotover River.


Satellite images and weather observations taken from Queenstown International Airport, MetService and other sources will complement the field data.


Funding: $19,100
Contact: AJ Mason (Innovation Queenstown)



18. Electric vehicle battery health

  • Verifying corporate specifications of electric vehicle batteries
  • Testing the instrumentation used to estimate battery energy-holding capacity


Does overheating cause electric vehicle battery energy holding capacity and range to degrade at a faster rate than the manufacturers tell us?


That question was the central focus of Flip the Fleet, which followed on from 2018’s Flip the Fleet: accelerating electric vehicle uptake in Otago. During this project, a coalition of over 1,000 electric vehicle owners uploaded monthly statistics from their vehicles to a communal database.


Using these data, the team uncovered an apparent high rate of battery degradation in the relatively new (late 2015 onwards) ‘30 kWh Leaf’ EV model. Batteries are environmentally and financially costly to manufacture, and new battery replacements are not yet available in New Zealand.


Thirty-two Nissan Leaf vehicles from around Otago took part in this study, each one fitted with automatic data recording equipment. Each participant received an individualised battery charging plan, based on community experiments, monitoring results and instrumentation calibration tests. Other owners completed ‘run-out’ tests where the batteries were run completely flat on a Cromwell racetrack to test whether the car’s instruments reliably reported range and battery health.


This project was citizen science in action. Together, the community and experts designed strategies to prolong battery life and maximise the environmental benefits and return on investment in electric vehicles. They gathered valuable independent data for consumer protection and checked corporate claims about electric vehicles, an exciting technology with huge potential to combat climate change.


Organisations involved in the project included the Otago Museum, Ecosystems Consultants, Otago Electric Vehicle Incorporated Society, Dunedin EV Owners Group, Zeno Networks, PowerStats and Exact IOT Ltd.


Visit the Flip the Fleet website, like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter to find out more.


Funding: $20,000

Contact: Emeritus Professor Henrik Moller (Ecosystems Consultants)

19. Investigating native plant-fungi symbiosis

  • Exploring the use of symbionts to aid native plant establishment and survival
  • Improving biodiversity in Central Otago’s indigenous woodland


What techniques can community members use at home, on farms and in parks to help native plants become established?


The Haehaeata Natural Heritage Trust and Mokihi Trust, in collaboration with the University of Otago’s Department of Botany, focused on answering this question.


Many native plants have associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF), but very little is known about AMF associations with dryland native plants in Central Otago. If natives can be inoculated with AMF in a nursery, it may help their establishment and survival in revegetation sites. The scientific challenge for this project was to overcome the lack of existing information and protocols for AMF use in dryland native revegetation through establishing a series of trail plots and lab-based genomic analyses of AMF types.


Newsletters and media releases provided ongoing insight into the project. Interested community members also had the opportunity to join field trips and workshops.


For more information on this project, check out the Clyde Railhead Community Eco Nursery website or Facebook page.


Funding: $19,960

Contact: Cathy Rufaut (University of Otago)

20. Open Valley Urban Ecosanctuary (Open VUE) – Kapuka Taumahaka Whakamaurutanga

  • Observing birds, predators, lizards and invertebrates
  • Providing an education programme to schools and the community


North East Valley locals were the driving force behind the Open Valley Urban Ecosanctuary (Open VUE). This community-led initiative followed on from 2017’s The Valley Urban Ecosanctuary. It was spearheaded by the Valley Project in collaboration with Orokonui Ecosanctuary and the University of Otago.


Overall, the project aimed to create a green corridor between the Dunedin Town belt and Orokonui, and encourage native species back into the area. Creating a low-predator environment in which native species can thrive was an essential component of this work.


Open VUE brought schools and community members together to deliver a curriculum-based education programme. Students learned how attract native birds and survey predators in their own backyards. Biodiversity topics were also expanded to include lizards, invertebrates and long-term trends.


For all the latest, check out the Open VUE Facebook page.


Funding: $20,000

Contact: Eleanor Linscott (North East Valley resident)

21. If we build it, will peripatus come?

  • Assessing urban green spaces for invertebrate biodiversity
  • Developing information sheets to create suitable habitats for peripatus


Peripatus sounds like something from a fantasy story – an ancient velvet worm that emerges at night to shoot its insect prey with poisonous spit before devouring them. But how widespread are peripatus across Dunedin, and can this mysterious worm flourish in urban green spaces?


To answer these questions, students from three Dunedin primary schools – Green Island, St Francis Xavier and Abbotsford – worked with experts from Catchments Otago (University of Otago) and the Otago Museum. They investigated overall invertebrate biodiversity and compared their findings with their own school grounds, where they worked to create suitable habitats.


Students developed flyers, supported by the experts, which were launched at events around International Biological Diversity Day in May 2019. These focused on how to create invertebrate-friendly urban environments and how to help increase available habitats for peripatus in Dunedin.


To find out more, check out the Catchments Otago website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.


Funding: $20,000

Contact: Dr Cynthia Winkworth (University of Otago)

22. Predator control and biodiversity monitoring on Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua

  • Surveying birds and seedlings, monitoring skinks and using tracking tunnels
  • Utilising predator traps and recording carcasses


Experts, local schools, and community groups teamed up to continue the important work of 2017’s Biodiversity Monitoring on Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua project. Traps (A24s, snappy traps and DOC200s) were installed in 2016–17 to control rats and mice – the only known predators on the island. A motion sensor camera was set up by the A24 traps in early 2018, with data leading to trap-design modifications.


While the previous iteration of the project largely attracted younger participants, the team hoped to bring older people, or those not normally involved in scientific studies, on board.


This study made further use of motion sensor cameras and regular checks for predator carcasses to measure the efficacy of the traps. Different kinds of lure were also tested in the tracking tunnels to see if this affects activity.


Surveys were carried out monthly and participants collected data on birds, skinks and seedling populations. This allowed for comparisons between the seasons and with previous data, helping to identify trends and anomalies.


Join the Quarantine Island Community Facebook page or subscribe to their email newsletter to find out more.


Funding: $15,042

Contact: Kristen Bracey (Quarantine Island Secretary)

23. St Gerard’s Manuherikia catchment water quality monitoring

  • Assessing the water quality of the Manuherikia River and its tributaries
  • Helping students to utilise the Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit (SHMAK)


How healthy is the Manuherikia River? Does this change at different times of year? What factors influence the health, good or bad, of this river and its tributaries?


Students from St Gerard’s School in Alexandra aimed to answer these questions by using NIWA’s SHMAK to test flow, clarity, temperature, pH and conductivity, and examining a sampling of macroinvertebrates in and around the river. The kit helped them to understand their results and what this meant for the river’s water quality.


This project followed on from 2016’s successful Seed Project efforts which saw Year 8 students from St Gerard’s learn how to measure water quality at four spots (Alexandra, Becks, Galloway and Omakau).


Like the St Gerard’s School Facebook page for updates on the project.


Funding: $4,488
Contact: Ollie Yeoman (St Gerard’s School)

24. Source to sea catchment planning – Phase 1

  • Assessing the water quality of the Manuherikia River and its tributaries
  • Helping students to utilise the Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit (SHMAK)


How healthy is the Manuherikia River? Does this change at different times of year? What factors influence the health, good or bad, of this river and its tributaries?


Students from St Gerard’s School in Alexandra aimed to answer these questions by using NIWA’s SHMAK to test flow, clarity, temperature, pH and conductivity, and examining a sampling of macroinvertebrates in and around the river. The kit helped them to understand their results and what this meant for the river’s water quality.


This project followed on from 2016’s successful Seed Project efforts which saw Year 8 students from St Gerard’s learn how to measure water quality at four spots (Alexandra, Becks, Galloway and Omakau).


Like the St Gerard’s School Facebook page for updates on the project.


Funding: $4,488
Contact: Ollie Yeoman (St Gerard’s School)

25. Down the drain – Citizen science in Wanaka

  • Mitigating the effects of storm water on Lake Wanaka’s water quality
  • Using restoration science, monitoring and education


In 2017, students from Wanaka Primary School and Mount Aspiring College teamed up with Wanaka Lake Swimmers Club, the Ruby Swim and Touchstone to complete a water quality monitoring project in Roys Bay, Lake Wanaka. Their results showed that storm water from three major drains affects the water quality of the lake.


This year, the team will work with new partners to develop strategies to mitigate the effects of storm water run-off on water quality and recreational swimming in Lake Wanaka.


A wide array of organisations are involved in the project, including the University of Otago, Otago Regional Council, Aspiring Environmental, Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Wanaka Community Board.


Findings will be presented at a public meeting in 2019, with other events and activities announced throughout the project.


For more information, visit Touchstone’s website or Facebook page.


Funding: $17,363


Contact: Chris Arbuckle (Aspiring Environmental Ltd.)

26. Ka Hao te Rakatahi

  • Monitoring tuna (eels)
  • Comparing capture methods of fyke nets and hīnaki


One of the key objectives of Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands is to restore Ngāi Tahu as kaitiaki over the area. The vision is that Kāi Tahu Whānui will re-learn the practices and language associated with mahika kai. Through this project, Kāi Tahu rakatahi will learn skills to monitor tuna numbers. They will compare the use of hīnaki and fyke nets as capture methods and gain an understanding of wetlands ecology, tuna lifecycle and habitat.


A wānanga was held in July 2018, to review existing research and knowledge of traditional fishing methods, followed by a second wānanga covering hīnaki building techniques. Rakatahi worked with freshwater ecologists from the University of Otago to sample tuna each month, from September 2018 to April 2019. They collected data on tuna numbers and ages, and will compare it to data from earlier studies at Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau.


Cultural experts from Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and He Waka Kōtuia will ensure that kaupapa Māori and mātauraka Māori are embedded in the design and execution of the project.


The findings from this study will be shared with Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and the wider community through workshops and presentations. Rakatahi will also create works of Māori performing arts, such as waiata and kapa haka, to ensure the knowledge is retained and shared.


Find out more about Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands on their website.


Funding: $20,000

Contact: Paulette Tamati-Elliffe (Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands)



27. Vision 2020

  • Developed a peer vision screening tool to use in classrooms
  • Started investigating barriers to accessing and using glasses

Studies suggest visual deficits can have a negative impact on a range of learning outcomes, including poor grades, classroom behaviour, and even disengaging completely from school. As academic achievement is one of the most powerful predictors of lifelong health, addressing factors that contribute to poor school function may be critical to resolving health disparities. However, we lack a clear understanding of how to address the logistical and social barriers to accessing and using corrective lenses.


In 2018, a small pilot project by experts at the School of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic discovered that around 20% of children in a secondary school had uncorrected vision. It also learned that parents didn’t follow up on vision screening results, even when given vouchers for an optometrist.


In this 2019 follow-up project scientists and teachers and students at Tahuna Intermediate developed a screening tool that can be used in classrooms, where students can check each other’s vision. The students were actively involved in designing the screening tool to ensure that it is easy to use. The tool was then validated by testing a random sample of children with a gold standard optometry assessment.


The peer screening identified some students with vision difficulties, who were directed to visit an optometrist. A key aim of the project was also to discover what encourages or discourages, assists or hinders parents to take their children for vision screening and pay for glasses, if required. This is an ongoing investigation. The project also identified that some students who have glasses were reluctant to wear them. Phase 2 (2020) of this project will address this by creating a vision screening module which integrates vision science into school work to engage and educate students on this topic.


To learn more about this project, check out the project lead’s blog read about it in the ODT or watch the project YouTube videos.


Funding: $18,500

Contact: Mary Butler (School of Occupational Therapy, Otago Polytechnic)

28. Examining stream health in South and West Otago

  • Analysed the physical, chemical and biological components of local streams in South West Otago
  • Exploring how stream health can be improved


Water quality is coming under increasing spotlight in New Zealand. The Otago Regional Council has highlighted the South and West Otago areas as having some of the poorer water quality in Otago. Catchment groups working in this area have highlighted the need to help community members better understand what lives in the area’s streams and to encourage students to think in a sustainable manner about the impacts of their own land use on stream health, and the wider environment.


Throughout this project, the NZ Landcare Trust, along with catchment group members, University of Otago and Otago Regional Council staff, worked with students from 9 schools, their teachers and parents to help raise awareness of the state of water quality in some of the streams in South and West Otago.


Communities were taught how to assess the health of local streams using physical, chemical and biological indicators. The project also helped to introduce ecological systems to schoolchildren, by investigating what lives in the streams of the area, and the conditions necessary for these aquatic animals’ survival.


A key aim of the project was to encourage communities to appreciate the value of protecting water quality and to explore ways in which stream health in the area can be improved. As a result the schools and catchment groups are now collaborating together in an ‘adopt-a-stream’ model, where a school has taken responsibility for the monitoring and improvement of their local stream with help and support from the relevant catchment group. This work will continue in the 2020 project which focuses on stream enhancement.


Check out the NZ Landcare Trust website and Facebook page, as well as the Facebook pages of the Pomahaka Water Care Group and Otago South River Care, to find out more.


Funding: $20,000

Contact: Craig Simpson (NZ Landcare Trust)

29. Shark Spy – Monitoring Otago sharks

    • Explored the abundance and demographics of Otago’s shark populations
    • Encouraged citizen scientists to report shark sightings and egg cases

    Currently, there is a lack of data about the captivating and enigmatic shark species inhabiting coastal ecosystems around New Zealand. However, previous research has indicated that numerous species frequent the diverse coastal waters around Dunedin.


    Unfortunately, the lack of basic demographic information on many species limits conservation, management and policy initiatives. By involving the wider community in data collection, this project will learn about local shark populations, teaching school groups and the local community about what can be found in their own ‘backyards’.


    Baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs) at set locations around the Otago coastline acted as dedicated surveys for local shark populations, providing information about species diversity and seasonal abundance of sharks and their prey species. Survey boat trips were carried out monthly with school or community groups, with pre and post sessions to discuss experimental design and data analysis. There were also community talks, events and training workshops. Surveys for shark egg cases on local beaches around the region provided information about seasonality of reproductive behaviour for some species. Divers, surfers, fishers, boat users, and the wider community were encouraged to use an iNaturalist webpage to report opportunistic encounters with sharks.


    To find out more, check out the NZ Marine Studies Centre’s website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. You can also follow Shark Spy on Facebook, Twitter or contact them by email


    Funding: $19,974

    Contact: Sally Carson (NZ Marine Studies Centre)

30. Nebulised antibiotics – Residue and resistance: Phase 1

  • Assessing risks associated with disposal of antibiotic residue from nebulisers used by the CF (cystic fibrosis) community


Cystic Fibrosis Otago will work with University of Otago researchers to investigate how people with CF are cleaning antibiotic residue from their nebulisers and how this might be impacting antibiotic resistance.


Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing health problem around the world. If bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, but not killed, they can mutate into antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Infections caused by these bacteria are much harder to treat and can result in long stays in hospital and increased mortality.


People with CF often use antibiotics inhaled through a nebuliser to prevent and treat bacterial lung infections. There is concern amongst the CF community that rinsing residual antibiotic solution from nebulisers down the sink or into rubbish bins may lead to pockets of antibiotic resistance in the local environment. As the use of inhaled antibiotics is a mainstay of CF respiratory infection management, antibiotic resistance would have a significant impact on the consequences of infection.


This project will survey how people with CF are disposing of antibiotic residue from their nebulisers, measure the volume of antibiotic residue in different nebuliser systems, and measure the concentration of that antibiotic residue in wash buckets.


Findings will be shared through newsletters, social media, community meetings and media releases, with the opportunity provided to consider feasibility of a pilot project to measure disposal channel impacts.


To follow the project, check out the Cystic Fibrosis NZ Facebook page.


Funding: $10,000

Contact: Julian Cox (Cystic Fibrosis Otago)