Good science in in the Bay

20 March 2019

Megan Ranapia
Megan Ranapia investigating the habitats of green-lipped mussels

Two University of Waikato students have been awarded $5000 each to research coastal waters in the Bay of Plenty.

Megan Ranapia and Georgia Flowers are the latest recipients of BayTrust Bruce Cronin Scholarships, administered by Universities New Zealand and awarded to postgraduate students doing research in maths, sciences or information technology geared towards future improvement of the Bay of Plenty region and either study, come from, or have whakapapa in the region.

Megan is studying for her Master of Science degree and her research involves creating a habitat sustainability map for green-lipped mussel translocation in Ohiwa Harbour.

“Green-lipped mussels were once prolific in New Zealand’s coastal waters and Ohiwa has one of the last remnant soft-bottom mussel habitats,” Megan says. “They provide important ecological services, increase fish production and are considered an important resource to some iwi and hapu.”

In response to their decline, the Ohiwa Harbour Implementation Forum wants to restore mussels back to the harbour. “My studies will provide an analytical tool the Forum can use to decide the best possible location for mussel survival and recruitment,” Megan says. Her whakapapa is tied to Whakatāne and Motiti Island.

“My thesis will also collaborate both western science and matauranga Māori and this inclusive approach will hopefully increase the opportunity for success, and it could also imply further collaborative work for future shellfish management and research.”

Georgina Flowers

PhD student Georgina Flowers is investigating the environmental factors driving benthic primary production and sediment nutrient cycling in shallow water ecosystems. “This will be of great value for the Bay of Plenty,” she says. “These ecosystem processes undertaken in shallow water environments are highly valuable and are providing numerous services to the Bay of Plenty coastal areas.”

Georgina’s research will focus on 11 sites in the region’s largest estuary, Tauranga Harbour. “I’ll investigate how the increasing stressors of turbidity and nutrient concentrations to our marine environments may be influencing these shallow water ecosystem services.” She’ll be using chambers that will incubate the sediment and overlying water column from which the changes in oxygen and nutrient (eg, ammonium, nitrate) concentrations will be assessed. “The extent of my research will demonstrate the functional relationship between light intensity, primary production and sediment nutrient fluxes in intertidal areas.”

This information will help to underpin water quality models as well as whole-system nutrient budgets, information that is currently required to assist in the management and conservation of these environments, Georgina says.

Both students are chuffed to have won a BayTrust Bruce Cronin scholarship and are confident their research can make a real difference in the region. They say they’re not surprised the two scholarships were awarded to Waikato University students as the university has long had a an academic team focused on coastal research and because a large portion of the Bay of Plenty region is built around estuarine and coastal areas, the conservation of the marine ecosystems in this region is vital.

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