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Vic launches multidisciplinary marine centre

Victoria launches multidisciplinary marine research centre

The multifaceted impact of the sea and oceans on New Zealand's environment, society and economy is to be a focus of the latest applied research centre to be launched by Victoria University.

The Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research will be launched by the Hon Pete Hodgson, Minister of Research, Science & Technology on Thursday October 21.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon says the Centre will have a broad focus that extends well beyond the marine environment.

"With the world's fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone, almost 18 times greater than its land area, the sea dominates all aspects of New Zealand's life and economy.

"With this overarching vision before it, the Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research, while based in the School of Biological Sciences, will reach out to the diverse disciplines at Victoria to undertake marine-related research in areas such as law, economics and public policy as well as marine environmental, ecological and biological research.

"The Centre will have a wide brief, from examining international maritime law and allocating fisheries resources to resource management applications, establishing marine reserves and understanding the genetics of marine animals and how fish and shellfish breed and move through the oceans."

Professor McCutcheon says that Victoria has long-standing strength in the marine sciences.

"Victoria has maintained a marine laboratory on Wellington's rugged south coast at Island Bay since the 1960s and after introduction of New Zealand's first marine biology major three years ago, the number of students studying in this area has markedly increased."

Projects completed or underway at the Centre include the genetics of New Zealand shellfish production, an aquaculture development project in the Falkland Islands, a mussel aquaculture venture with the University of Concepcion, Chile, and several different projects focusing on marine reserves and marine conservation.

The Centre's projects are collaborative with several Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations in New Zealand including the Cawthron Institute, NIWA, the Department of Conservation, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Media are invited to attend the Centre launch at 5.30pm on October 21 in the Hunter Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Parade, Wellington. Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research

The Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research is one of Victoria University's applied research centres. While based in the School of Biological Sciences, the Centre draws on the expertise of academics in disciplines from throughout Victoria University. The Centre is the seventh applied research centre to be established, after the launch of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology (now a Government-funded Centre for Research Excellence), the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing in February 2002, the Crime and Justice Research Centre in August 2002, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families in February 2003, the Centre of Applied Cross-Cultural Research in October 2003 and the Centre for Biodiscovery in March 2004. Under the University's strategic plan at least 10 applied research centres will be established to focus on areas of specialist research.

The Centre's mission is to provide independent research of an international calibre through the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to solving complex marine-related problems. Drawing on the expertise of staff from across the University and elsewhere, the Centre's research is principally in the fields of fisheries and aquaculture; environmental science and conservation; public policy; law and economics. It aims to enhance understanding of marine systems by generating new knowledge that is underpinned by high-quality science.

Projects completed or underway at the Centre include the genetics of New Zealand shellfish production, an aquaculture development project in the Falkland Islands, and a mussel aquaculture venture with the University of Concepcion, Chile, and several different projects focusing on marine reserves and marine conservation. University staff members have secured research grants from the Marsden Fund, the Foundation for Research, Science & Technology, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Fisheries and the National Science Foundation in the United States.

The Director of the Centre is Dr Jonathan Gardner, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences. Dr Gardner, who has a PhD in marine ecological genetics from the University of Wales, was formerly a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leicester (UK) and the Ocean Sciences Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. His key research interests are the genetics of marine organisms and marine ecology.

The establishment of the Centre reflects the continued development of the marine biology programme at Victoria University, and the recent addition of six academic staff with interests in marine science. Key staff who will contribute to the Centre include: Drs Simon Davy (corals); Doug McNaught (temperate reef ecology); Nicole Phillips (larval biology); Peter Ritchie (molecular biology including Antarctic and marine megafauna such as giant squid); Ken Ryan (microphytoplankton and Antarctica); Jeff Shima (fish ecology); and Joe Zuccarello (molecular biology and ecology of seaweeds). Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research projects are currently or potentially collaborative with several Crown Research Institutes such as NIWA, and with other research organisations in New Zealand including the Cawthron Institute, the Department of Conservation, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the Ministry of Fisheries.

The Centre's website is: http://www.vuw.ac.nz/cmeer/

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