Research with impact

A love of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity inspires ecologist Professor Bruce Clarkson from Te Aka Mātuatua - School of Science at the University of Waikato.

26 Feb 2024

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A love of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity inspires ecologist Professor Bruce Clarkson from Te Aka Mātuatua - School of Science at the University of Waikato.

He leads a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funded research project called People, Cities and Nature, which focuses on restoring indigenous nature in urban environments. His work has guided the Hamilton gully restoration programme and the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park near Hamilton Zoo.

What is it?

People Cities and Nature is a five-year interdisciplinary research project involving a team of researchers from multiple institutions including University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research and University of Otago.

This project began in 2016 and is funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s Endeavour Fund.

It is led by Professor Bruce Clarkson from the University of Waikato, and is the only significant research programme in New Zealand focused on urban ecology. It seeks to restore indigenous nature and biodiversity in our city and suburban environments.

Urban ecological restoration

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Urban Dwellers

More than 87% of New Zealanders are classed as urban dwellers.

Restoring high-quality indigenous green spaces in urban centres helps reverse biodiversity decline and provides access to beautiful natural environments that support human health, wellbeing and resilience.

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Inidigenous nature

There is a new awareness of the connection of ecosystem restoration to community health and vitality, and creating cohesive communities.

People increasingly recognise the seriousness of climate change and biodiversity decline.

The People, Cities and Nature programme has supported councils and communities with research and recommendations to return indigenous nature to towns and cities.

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UN Sustainable Development Goals

The project aligns with Māori values and aspirations and has involved partnership with hapū and iwi, alongside other community groups.

Developing high-quality urban greenspace helps meet our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

June 2021 marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The time is now to make urban ecological restoration a priority!

A green oasis in the city

To celebrate World Environment Day, hundreds of volunteers planted 18,000 native trees at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park on 4 June, 2021.

Professor Clarkson talks about this remarkable project, which began in 2004, right on the edge of suburban Hamilton.

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Hamilton Kirikiriroa Medal

On Monday 12 July, Professor Bruce Clarkson was awarded the prestigious Hamilton Kirikiriroa Medal, alongside two others, including wife Dr Bev Clarkson, an expert in terrestrial wetland research with Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research

When I told him that he was up for this award, all he could do was to shake his head and say, ‘Oh Paula, I don’t know what to say”,” says Mayor Paula Southgate, who presented the medals at a ceremony at Claudelands Event Centre.
“He was speechless. He is so humble. He doesn’t want the limelight but this is his moment to shine, alongside Bev, because together - what a team – doing some of the best environmental research in New Zealand

- Professor Bruce Clarkson

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Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park

A flock of welcome swallows dip and dive through the air above hundreds of school children in Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, a 65.5ha biodiversity project on the north-west edge of suburban Hamilton. It’s New Zealand Arbor Day and the school children are here, alongside their teachers, parents, Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, councillors and others, to plant native seedlings. Some 18,000 trees will be planted today, many by little hands who will become the next generation of eco-warriors...

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Leading the way in Taranaki

Taranaki-born and raised Professor Bruce Clarkson has had a long relationship with the region and its natural environment. “I grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by nature and very close to Egmont National Park or Te Papakura O Taranaki,” recalls the renowned University of Waikato ecologist. “My brothers and I roamed the landscape and learned about nature, it was all around us. So, the environment is a childhood passion...”

Our partners

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The University of Waikato

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Victoria University of Wellington

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Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research

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University of Otago

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