2018 Catchments Otago Symposium

Catchments Otago logo.jpg

‘Water, Biodiversity, People’

Catchments Otago Symposium

Monday 9th April, 2018

St Margaret’s College, University of Otago, Dunedin


The University of Otago Research Theme Catchments Otago, a multi-disciplinary theme exploring approaches for sharing natural resources that consider environmental, social and economic outcomes, will host a day long symposium focussing on Water & Biodiversity, Water & Society, Water & Health and Water & Movement. Invited representatives from Government agencies, Community organisations and University researchers will discuss their perspectives relating to the sub themes during each of four 90-minute long sessions. There will also be sufficient time for fruitful discussions to explore topics raised by the session presenters during three refreshment breaks provided.

The Organising Committee wishes to extend a warm invitation to interested individuals to attend the 9th April 2018 Symposium.

Confirmed speakers include: Michael Baker, Department of Public Health, University of Otago; Mark Bryan, Managing Director VetSouth; Robert Costanzo, School of Public Policy, Australian National University; Pat Garden, Otago Conservation Board Chairperson; Olga Pantos, Institute of Environmental Science and Research; Gretchen Robertson Otago Regional Council Councillor; Dan Tompkins, Project Manager Science Strategy, Predator Free 2050.

To register attendance or request further information please contact Cynthia Lawrence: cynthia.lawrence@otago.ac.nz

With kind regards,  

Catchments Otago Steering Committee


2017 New Zealand River Story Award winner announced

Researcher Dr Jay Piggott at the Kauru River ExStream set up.

Researcher Dr Jay Piggott at the Kauru River ExStream set up.


Congratulations to Dr Christoph Matthaei, Dr Jay Piggott, and their ExStream team for winning the 2017 New Zealand River Story award in Wellington last night. Established in 2013 by the Morgan Foundation and the NZ Rivers Trust, The River Story Award is for the most interesting and compelling story of an individual or community working to improve the health of a river, or rivers generally.

Located on the banks of the Kauru River in North Otago, the ExStream setup merged science with engineering to answer tough ecological questions using high statistical replication. The ExStream River Story can be viewed here.


Research opportunities for students or recent graduate

OceanaGold has two research opportunities available for University of Otago students or recent graduates this summer (preferably Dec-Feb) or possibly early Autumn (subject to agreement). $5K for each project; 8-10 weeks anticipated duration. Would suit 3-year student or recent graduate. 

1.       Generation of a biodiversity database. This would require becoming familiar with some freeware (Biota), and then obtaining data from reports and consultants to upload into Biota. At the end of this project good to not only get the data base but for the researcher/student to provide some training to OceanaGold staff on its use.

2.       A Field Guide to Biodiversity of Significance at Macraes. Starting with Birds but, time permitting other fauna and flora, prepare a field guide for use by Macraes Staff. 

There is a certain amount of overlap between these two projects, so if it is two students then it is likely they will work together. As part of the work they will need their own computer, and would not have access to OceanaGold’s system. They would also need to sign an NDA.

Please contact Mara Wolkenhauer directly at the University of Otago Research and Enterprise Office if interested.

Upper Clutha water management project secures Government funding

Funding from the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund has been confirmed to support an Upper Clutha project aimed at improving waterway health in the area.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says the Otago Regional Council - on behalf of the Upper Clutha Water Group - has received $385,000 from the fund to contribute to the group’s overall spending of $820,000 spanning the next five years. The funding will enable the group to develop and get under way projects to improve and maintain the long-term health of the wider Upper Clutha area including Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, and the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers. Water quality and health in the Upper Clutha area are vulnerable to the effects of continuing urban and rural development, land use changes and tourism growth. The Upper Clutha Water Group is a collaborative group made up of a wide variety of community and agencies associated with Lake Wanaka.  The group has been working over the past year to share information on water-related issues and activities. 

Its project focuses on three key streams of work:

  • The development and management of a water management plan supported by stakeholder entities, including iwi, urban residents, tourism operators, visitors, farmers, the Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, and scientists.
  • Strategic plantings to restore riparian margins in prioritised areas.  This project will be led by Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust in partnership with landowners, QLDC and other stakeholders and is supported by The Million Metres stream project, a crowd funding project set up by the Sustainable Business Network.
  • Applied research supported by Catchments Otago (a University of Otago research theme) studying stormwater quality in the Wanaka township to help inform safe water use, treatment and future infrastructure development by the QLDC, as well as improving stormwater oversight and water quality protection by the ORC.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said the council is pleased to support and collaborate with the group in the various projects. He applauded the group for its foresight and leadership in the community desire to deliver this long-term approach to waterway management.

Mandy Bell on behalf of the Upper Clutha Water Group said the group is delighted to have the funding confirmed. The Upper Clutha Water Group and Te Kakano will further engage the community to develop an integrated water management plan supported by science, she said.

They will tell the community more about the project at the ORC-led Lake snow public information session on 4 October at 7pm at the Lake Wanaka Centre. 

Youngsters excited by fish biologist's displays

Fascinating studies of different New Zealand animals are being conducted at the Zoology Department of the University of Otago; Pavel Mikheev, a PhD student originating from Russia, is currently leading a research project on brown trout. The species was introduced in to New Zealand more than 150 years ago and nowadays is a significant component of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems across the country, with high economic and recreational significance as a popular sport fish.  

Pavel at his Silverstream study site

Pavel at his Silverstream study site

In his study, Pavel is investigating brown trout populations of the Taieri River catchment (Otago Region), with the most intensive sampling taking place at the Silverstream - one of the main spawning tributaries of the Taieri river near Dunedin. The main aim of the project is to estimate competition between juvenile trout and resource use at habitats used intensively for spawning by the migratory sea-run form of trout. Pavel estimates the dynamics of migratory activity, density, biomass and growth rates of brown trout juveniles and their pressures on the stream invertebrate community during the first months of their life after hatching from “nests” in the gravel. The majority of the data is obtained using spotlighting at night; the most harmless method of intensive stream fish surveys. At night, fish are less active and it is much easier to see them using a powerful torch. Some of the fish are then captured by dip net, measured, weighed and released unharmed at the place of capture.

Pavel processing fish samples back in the freshwater ecology lab  

Pavel processing fish samples back in the freshwater ecology lab  

People walking near Pavel’s surveys at Silverstream took interest of his study, with many parents asking him to show the fish to the children. With University approval, Pavel displayed fish to the community at a weekend event using aquaria on the stream bank. Some brown trout juveniles and native fish were captured during the night survey, kept in cages in the river until the morning, when they were released into the aquaria.

Parents and children enjoyed seeing juvenile fish up close

Parents and children enjoyed seeing juvenile fish up close

Live fish in aquaria on the riverbank impressed both children and their parents! They were happy to learn so many new things about fish living in the stream nearby. The fountain of questions never stopped!!! And this fish lives here as well?.. How big can it grow?.. What do they eat?.. How do they spawn? What is whitebait?..  

Fish biology is fun

Fish biology is fun

But the best part for many was seeing two longfin eels! It was the first time the children and their parents had been able to see real eels up so close. The story about their life cycle got a lot of interest and more questions… After being shown to the children, the fish were released back into the river with applause and after end of the display, parents were asking to repeat this event one more time, promising to invite their friends.

Long fin eels - the stars of the show

Long fin eels - the stars of the show

Following the interest of the community and the undoubted significance of environmental education of children (and their parents!), we plan to repeate similar public events on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

Lab at the Lake Wanaka

Lab at the Lake Wanaka

On Sunday 2 April Pembroke Park in Wanaka was transformed into the ‘Lab at the Lake’, a family fun day, specifically showcasing what we do and don’t know about Lake Wanaka, work currently done, and possible future work. The Lab in a Box, an Otago Museum mobile science laboratory, housed fish, invertebrate and zooplankton hands-on displays, with live critters captured that very morning from Bullock Creek and the lake itself.

Central Otago Lakes Events: March 31st & April 2nd, 2017

PechaKucha Evening - Queenstown

Together Catchments Otago (University of Otago) and Otago Regional Council are co-hosting a Pecha Kucha Night in Queenstown, Friday 31 March at Queenstown Primary School Hall.

The theme of discussion is "The Lakes and I", with a line up of presenters telling stories about their relationship to the lakes, and how living near the lakes influences their lives - it promises to be a great event. 

Join us in celebrating peoples' connection to their beautiful lakes! This is a free event, so bring the family and friends. All welcome. Reserve your seat by emailing contact@catchmentsotago.org. Doors open 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start. 

Lab at the Lake - Wanaka

Come explore the lake and its catchment at the joint Catchments Otago and Otago Regional Council family fun science day, complete with the Otago Museum Lab in a Box; a shipping container kitted out as a functioning mobile laboratory. Chat with scientists, browse the displays and watch some short movies. 

This is a free event for families on Sunday 2 April at Pembroke Park (Market corner), open 10am-1pm.