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New environment research institute looks at the big picture

August 22, 2011

New environmental research institute looks at the big picture to find solutions

The University of Waikato is bringing its internationally acclaimed environmental research programmes under one roof to better tackle some of the big problems New Zealand faces in environmental degradation and biodiversity decline

The new Environmental Research Institute, to be launched this week [Friday August 26], builds on the University’s significant strengths in terrestrial, freshwater, coastal marine and Antarctic ecosystems.

The ERI will undertake multi-disciplinary research across these four ecosystems with the aim of developing insights and expertise to support effective environmental outcomes.

The new Institute is headed by top ecologist and Dean of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Professor Bruce Clarkson.

“The Environmental Research Institute is about joined up thinking,” he says. “One of the difficulties in New Zealand is that we have different agencies responsible for different parts of the landscape.

“We aim to take a collaborative approach to addressing the pressures on our environment. The ERI will consider environmental problems on the broader scale to come up with robust, real-world solutions.”

Winner of the Loder Cup, New Zealand’s premier conservation award, Professor Clarkson is one of the foremost authorities in ecological restoration, and leads a national research programme looking at the best methods to restore indigenous biodiversity in cities.

The ERI’s terrestrial ecosystem research also covers soil biogeochemistry, forest fragments, bioremediation and urban planning and design.

The Institute’s freshwater ecosystems expertise encompasses lakes management and restoration, pest fish control, nutrient modelling and wetland ecohydrology. ERI researchers are currently engaged in a 10-year $10 million initiative to clean up New Zealand’s lakes.

The ERI’s coastal marine ecosystem research is centred on Tauranga, and focuses on ways to better manage the environmental well-being of coastal areas given the increasing pressure and conflicts of use from urban development, aquaculture, recreational and commercial interests.

The University of Waikato’s highly-respected Antarctic research makes up the fourth strand of the ERI’s research programme. Over the past nearly 50 years, Waikato researchers have provided the science to underpin the conservation and management of terrestrial biodiversity in the Ross Sea region. Other areas of interest in the Antarctic include marine biodiversity and the impacts of climate change.

The new Institute also brings together expertise in environmental education, law, planning, resource economics, history and geography.

The Environmental Research Institute is one of four new research institutes established by the University of Waikato over the past year to join the long-established Wilf Malcolm Institute for Educational Research. The others are the National Institute for Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA), the Institute for Business Research (IBR) and Te Kotahi Research Institute (TKRI).


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