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NZ CHOSEN FOR MAJOR US-FUNDED EARTH SCIENCE PROJEC

NEWS RELEASE, 22 FEBRUARY 2000
NZ CHOSEN FOR MAJOR US-FUNDED EARTH SCIENCE PROJECT
New Zealand is one of two countries to be selected for a long-term American-funded earth science study that will see American and New Zealand scientists working together.

A representative of science programmes supported by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) is visiting New Zealand this week to formalise the initial stages of the collaboration.

The 10-year, multi-million dollar project will involve scientists from numerous disciplines including marine sciences, geophysics, seismology, geology, sedimentology, geomorphology, geochemistry, ecology, and soil science.

Dr Charles Nittrouer, of the University of Washington at Seattle and a member of the steering committee of the NSF Margins program, is here on a fact-finding study, inspecting the two proposed study sites, and meeting scientists likely to be involved.

The sites include large areas of Otago from the high country to offshore areas east of Dunedin, and the Waipaoa River catchment and its offshore continuation near Gisborne.

The project will measure the rates by which mountains are uplifted and eroded, and materials transported to their final resting place in deep sea basins. The NSF will provide substantial financial support for the research.

There will be a number of benefits for New Zealand from the "baseline" research findings. They include improved understanding of river and erosion control, land use, geological hazards, sedimentation in coastal and deep sea environments, and oil and gas exploration.

New Zealand is one of two main sites selected in the world – the other being Papua New Guinea – for NSF sedimentation studies. Crown Research Institute scientists and overseas collaborators started advancing New Zealand’s case as a prime "natural laboratory" over a decade ago.

The initiative will see three Crown Research Institutes and New Zealand universities working in partnership with American and other collaborators for the next decade. The CRIs involved are Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS), Landcare Research New Zealand Limited, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited (NIWA).

The next stage in the process will see New Zealand and US scientists formally applying for the US funding to research sediment systems in the two study areas.

The programme is the latest of numerous earth science initiatives that the NSF has funded in New Zealand in recent years.

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