Archives: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017
Malaghan: Kiwi Vax offers 100% protection in preclinical study
A preclinical study evaluating a Kiwi-made Covid-19 vaccine – Kiwi Vax – has shown its unique formulation induces a safe and highly effective immune response to SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, making it a promising booster vaccine candidate.
Bragato: Cyclone impact on vineyards
In 1988, Cyclone Bola caused extensive damage to the North Island in the regions of Gisborne and Northland. The destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle was similar in many respects: flooding, silt deposition in vineyards around harvest time, damage to the trellis system, vines falling over, or, in extreme cases, vineyards completely destroyed.
Connections 40 eNewsletter out now
The latest IRANZ newsletter is out now. It's a special issue, dedicated to the amazing women we have working across the spectrum of independent research in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Mātai Interns & Turanga FM Interview
Ariana Brown and Jackson Clarke, two of 16 Mātai Medical Research Institute interns talk to Turanga FM about their background studies, what Mātai has to offer, and how they are impacting their community as a whole.
Lincoln Agritech: App to count fruit a success
March 2023: For an orchardist to know how big their harvest is likely to be, the fruit must be counted.
But that counting can be time-consuming and tedious – and needs to be done not once, but at least twice. First orchardists count how much fruit has set, and how much needs to be thinned to ensure maximum quality. Then they need to count again, to check that the thinning has been done properly.
A successful six-year Lincoln Agritech project funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI) to develop a counting app, is set to make a real difference.
The project involved capturing thousands of images of flowers, fruitlets and fruit counts on trees to train a specialised artificial neural network (ANN) called a convolutional neural network (CNN) designed to extract and interpret features from the images. These features are then combined in a model to form regions that are classified into fruit and non-fruit, providing a crop load estimate.
The app has been trained to recognise apple fruitlets for thinning. Photo: Lincoln Agritech.
BRANZ: Restoring a home after flood damage
March 2023: BRANZ has made a bulletin available to assist with the putting right that is so important after a flood. It covers health and safety considerations, tips for cleaning up inside and outside, drying out the house, and repairs. The bulletin updates and replaces Bulletin 455 Restoring a house after flood damage. It does not cover making residential properties resilient to flooding.
Once building access is safe and services such as electricity are turned off or made safe, flood debris should be cleared away quickly so drying can start as soon as possible.
Finishing work must not begin until the building is fully dry. Beginning work too soon may result in longer-term damage such as mould growth and timber decay.
The building owner should contact their insurance company as early as possible and follow the insurer’s instructions. Work on the building should not begin until the owner has confirmed that the insurance assessor has visited and/or the insurance company has authorised the work to go ahead.
BRANZ: Make way for change
March 2023: The days when sustainable house design was just a cosy nice-to-have will soon be behind us. The government has flagged significant upcoming changes in its Building for climate change programme and other workstreams.
The benefits of good sustainable design have been understood since the 1970s, but they are still far from standard in many houses in Aotearoa New Zealand. You don’t need to look hard to find new homes where the carbon footprint is enormous, the north-facing garage steals the winter sun, the large south-facing glazing makes for chilly nights and the power bills are eyewatering.
BRANZ/Massey University research has found newly constructed houses were responsible for five times more emissions than they should be if our houses are on track to reach a net-zero goal by 2050. At the same time, BRANZ is hearing from around the country that a growing number of clients, including families looking to build a new house, are bringing up the topic of carbon footprints with their designer.
Photo: Louise Thomas.
Malaghan: Kiwi Vax offers 100% protection in preclinical study
March 2023: A preclinical study evaluating a Kiwi-made Covid-19 vaccine – Kiwi Vax – has shown its unique formulation induces a safe and highly effective immune response to SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, making it a promising booster vaccine candidate.
Published in iScience, the study findings show that Kiwi Vax, developed by Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo (VAANZ) as part of the Government’s Covid-19 vaccine strategy, is highly immunogenic, robustly expressed, and has a strong stability profile. The vaccine was independently tested at the National Institutes of Health in the United States and at the University of Melbourne.
“These findings not only show we have developed a promising booster vaccine candidate, but that we have the expertise, capability and experience within New Zealand to make our own vaccines – something that stands us in good stead for future pandemics,” says the Malaghan Institute’s Dr Kjesten Wiig, Executive Director of VAANZ.
Bragato: Cyclone impact on vineyards
How lessons learned from Cyclone Bola can help in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle
March 2023: In 1988, Cyclone Bola caused extensive damage to the North Island in the regions of Gisborne and Northland. The destruction caused by both cyclones was similar in many respects: flooding, silt deposition in vineyards around harvest time, damage to the trellis system, vines falling over, or, in extreme cases, vineyards completely destroyed. Some remediation and recovery approaches applied with Bola are relevant to the damage experienced by Cyclone Gabrielle.
Researchers at Bragato have put together a fact sheet which addresses typical vineyard issues associated with the storm damage along with suggested solutions, gathered from growers who dealt with Cyclone Bola in 1988. They are not prescriptive but should be adapted to specific situations given that the extent of the damage may vary within a single vineyard block and across different vineyards within the same area.
Craggy Range Vineyard, Hawke's Bay. Photo: Bragato.
Connections 40 eNewsletter out now
February 2023: The latest IRANZ newsletter is out now. It's a special issue, dedicated to the amazing women we have working across the spectrum of independent research in Aotearoa New Zealand.
IRANZ Women of Science
Cawthron: Sharing a love of science with future researchers
People of Lincoln Agritech: Jin-Hua Li
Verum Group’s Dr Laura Molles – listening to the birds
Malaghan: RNA technology tackling NZ‑specific problems
Cawthron: Cruise ships highlight why marine biosecurity matters
HERA hosts Rotary Science & Tech students
Dragonfly Data Science: Mapping flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle
Summer of learning for Mātai interns
. . . And much more.
IYM residential course participants on tour at WSP Research in Petone. Photo: WSP Research.
IRANZ February news briefs
February 2023 : Follow the link for more details on the February 2023 news briefs from our Independent Research Organisations.
- Speaker's Science Forum: Food security in the face of global challenges
- Motu: Covid-19's impact on the economy
- Changes at the helm for Verum Group
- Lincoln Agritech: Clearing a research path for rangatahi
- Malaghan visiting researcher: Dr Michelle Linterman
- . . . and more.
Motu Economic and Public Policy Research's Senior Fellow Isabelle Sin is speaking at a Manatū Wāhine - Ministry for Women Zoom webinar on 28 February exploring the difficulties to accessing childcare and the effects on mothers’ labour market outcomes, and the wider issues and barriers that women experience when it comes to finding, and staying in, employment. The discussion is based on recent research reports by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. Photo: Motu.
Verum Group’s Dr Laura Molles – listening to birds
February 2023: Verum Group’s Dr Laura Molles is a behavioural ecologist with a particular interest in animal communication. She has worked on several field-based projects around the US and in Costa Rica before moving to New Zealand in 2000. Here in New Zealand she has studied kōkako, kakapo, little blue penguins, bellbirds, tūī, and great spotted kiwi, including working on reintroductions and other projects that integrate behaviour and conservation biology.
“I’m originally from Southern California, where I grew up in a neighbourhood bordered by three freeways and a river with concrete banks. But nature is everywhere! There are always interesting critters to watch, even in the middle of a city. I’ve also had the good fortune to study animals in deserts, forests, and grasslands in the US..."
Working with Dr Carol Bedoya at Verum Group, Dr Laura Molles has successfully developed machine learning approaches for individually identifying roroa – great spotted kiwi by their calls. Photo: Verum Group.
Gillies McIndoe: New cancer research
February 2023: Researchers at Gillies McIndoe Research Institute have recently published two new open-access papers in international journals. The first paper, by Matt Munro and published in ‘Organoids’, Applications for Colon Organoid Models in Cancer Research, outlines methods for generating colon organoids from patient-derived normal and tumour tissues. The researchers also discuss organoid biobanking, applications of organoids in disease modelling, and a range of platforms applicable to high-throughput drug testing.
The second paper, with research lead by Dr Freya Weth, was published in 'Cells' in December. The paper, Utility of the Cerebral Organoid Glioma 'GLICO' Model for Screening Applications, reviews the recent literature on the use of patient-derived glioblastoma organoid models and their applicability for drug screening, as well as provide a potential workflow for screening using the GLICO model. Glioblastoma is an aggressive and virtually always fatal brain tumour.
Photo: National Cancer Institute.
Speaker's Science Forum: Food security in the face of global challenges
February 2023: The first of the Speaker’s Science Forum series for 2023 was held on 21 February at Parliament. The central focus of the forum was the major risks to food security in Aotearoa New Zealand and how we can prevent or mitigate these issues to ensure a food secure future.
Dr David Rankin, GreenTech Group Leader at Lincoln Agritech, gave a presentation saying that climate change is altering our weather patterns and increasingly affecting regional food production and hence food security. As key agricultural and horticultural areas in Aotearoa New Zealand are becoming hotter and drier, he asked will we be able to continue to produce enough food for 40 million people?
Dr David Rankin outlining how impacts of climate change on food production can be proactively mitigated. Approaches range from animal and pasture breeding efforts to food additives and wearable tech for cattle.
Mackie Research: Reducing harm in the horticulture sector
February 2023: Horticulture feeds our country and is a vital part of the New Zealand economy. Those in the sector have a reputation for taking on hard work and getting it done, often in challenging conditions.
Between 2016 and 2020, the number of ACC claims in horticulture remained relatively steady, however, there was a spike in 2021. In partnership with Horticulture New Zealand, Mackie Research is working with industry experts to look at how work is done in horticulture, the patterns of harm that are emerging, what is already in place to manage harm and support wellbeing, and what further system capabilities could be built within the sector.
Mackie Research have recently published a report Building Systems Capability to Reduce Harm in the Horticulture Sector.
Harm hotspots identified from system analysis. Graphic: Mackie Research.
Motu: Avoid using gas appliances indoors during cyclone recovery
February 2023: Motu Fellow Phoebe Taptiklis has come up with some life-saving, evidence-based information for people in cyclone-ravaged areas of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning kills several people a year in New Zealand. Deaths increase during long-term electricity outages, such as the current outages after Cyclone Gabrielle, as people often bring gas-fuelled appliances (like barbeques and generators) inside for cooking. Burning fuel indoors with bad ventilation can mean a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide – a colourless, odourless gas. The gas, though slightly lighter than air, diffuses throughout the room.
BBQs are designed for outdoor use and are not as well sealed as other indoor appliances. Generators immediately underneath an open window can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Photo: Kwon Junho, Unsplash.
Dragonfly maps flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle
February 2023: Flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle has devastated regions of Hawke’s Bay. Satellite data allow for an indicative assessment of the extent of the flooding at the time of image collection. Dragonfly Data Science has released Hawke’s Bay flooding data derived from a Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite.
An interactive map of the flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle in Hawke’s Bay, involving input from Dragonfly was published by The Herald, and is available on the Dragonfly website, along with the underlying data.
The imagery was processed in Google Earth Engine, using methods based on those recommended by the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response.
SAR (synthetic aperture radar) imagery is well suited for mapping floods since the data acquisition is possible regardless of the cloud cover and SAR images can be captured day and night.
Image: Dragonfly Data Science.
Cawthron: Cruise ships highlight why marine biosecurity matters
February 2023: Marine Biologist Dr Bailey Lovett writes about why biosecurity matters.
"When I tell people I’m a marine biosecurity scientist, the response I get is often something along the lines of “marine biosecurity huh, that’s a niche area…” (I understand of course – it’s a bit of a mouthful. The description of what the role involves isn’t necessarily in the name, unless you know what you’re looking for).
"However, if you’ve seen any of the recent news headlines about international cruise ships being stopped from visiting certain parts of New Zealand because they were carrying oysters, snails, and various other hitchhiking critters, you might begin to understand why I don’t think that marine biosecurity is niche at all. In fact, you probably encounter biosecurity issues a lot more than you think."
Marine Biologist Dr Bailey Lovett. Photo: Cawthron Institute.
People of Lincoln Agritech: Jin-Hua Li
February 2023: When research scientist Jin-Hua Li was a child she didn't know what scientists did, but thought it seemed interesting.
"When I was growing up, I wanted to be a scientist. I was in year 5 in my primary school, and one day our teacher asked every child what we wanted to do when we grew up. Most children said they wanted to be a teacher, but I said I wanted to be a scientist. I knew what kind of work teachers do, but didn’t know at all what kind of work scientists do, and I could see teachers every day, but had never seen a scientist. I was just curious about what scientists looked like, and what they did every day."
Research Scientist Dr Jin-Hua Li is a plant pathologist for Lincoln Agritech. Her work involves lab work, office work, nursery work, and fieldwork – including sometimes working in a forest. "Mainly I work on beneficial micro-organisms that fix nitrogen, or make phosphate soluble in soil, or help to control some plant pathogens." Photo: Lincoln Agritech.
Malaghan: RNA technology tackling NZ‑specific problems
February 2023: The recent pandemic has heralded advancements in RNA technology and as the Covid storm calms, we are left with a clear sight of the potential this technology has in our future. Dr Rebecca McKenzie works in the Hugh Green Cytometry Centre at the Malaghan Institute. As the powerhouse of the institute, the Hugh Green Cytometry Centre houses state-of-the-art research technologies, among these is New Zealand’s first end-to-end preclinical RNA therapeutics platform.
“Thanks to significant donor funding and capability built as part of Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, we can now carry out all the steps to develop an RNA-based therapy – from designing a template for a unique target, synthesising the RNA molecules and packing them for safe delivery to the body. We can then do the preclinical testing to understand if an appropriate immune response is triggered,” says Rebecca.
HERA hosts Rotary National Science and Technology students
February 2023: HERA again hosted the 2023 Rotary National Science and Technology students at HERA House to kick off the new year.
As part of their commitment to inspire future engineers to work in the metals industry, this student event showcases and highlights the real opportunities that exist within the sector.
This year's cohort consisted of 22 students who are seeking further insight into potential future career pathways.
Despite Covid-19 bringing a halt to things for a short while, HERA has been hosting this event for a few years now, and their general approach is to invite their technical team to deliver concise presentations on their role at HERA, how they got there, and what it entails.
2023 Rotary Students using the 3D Scanner under the supervision of Research Engineer Hafez Taheri. Photo: HERA.
Lincoln Agritech: Clearing a research path for rangatahi
February 2023: Lincoln Agritech has again provided an internship for a rangatahi (young person) with the help of Pūhoro STEMM.
Summer intern Taylor Te Puni (Te Āti Awa) is now starting his second year of a BSc in biochemistry at the University of Canterbury, even more enthusiastic after spending the summer working with Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology group.
“It’s much better than other holiday jobs I’ve had!” he says. “I’ve experienced working in a scientific setting. I’ve done DNA extraction and I’ve seen how labs actually work.
Pūhoro intern Taylor Te Puni (front left) says one of the best things about working at Lincoln Agritech was working in the laboratory with Research Scientist Jin-Hua Li (front right). He’s also received mentoring from many others, including Biotechnology Team Leader Simon Kelly (back left) and Cultural Advisor Chaz Doherty (back right). Photo: Lincoln Agritech.
Mātai’s story captured by international film-maker
February 2023: International film-maker and journalist Mikey Kay says it has been “an honour” shooting an episode of the latest season of On the Frontlines docuseries in Gisborne.
Kay left the city “with a full heart” after filming a piece on the Mātai prostate cancer project and concussion research.
In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, GE Healthcare launched the On the Frontlines series to capture the efforts and response of the healthcare industry around the world.
Over two years later the series continues to tell stories about the greatest global health challenges and innovations, and the patients, clinicians and technology involved.
Former military man and now film-maker and correspondent Mikey Kay in Gisborne to film a piece on Mātai Research Institute for the GE Healthcare series ‘On the Frontlines’. “There’s amazing work happening at Mātai,” he said. Photo: Mātai Medical Research Institute.
Motu: Valuing forest ecosystem services in New Zealand
February 2023: Motu Economic and Public Policy Research reports that one of its most popular papers published in the last 12 months was Valuing forest ecosystem services in New Zealand.
The paper, authored by researcher Hannah Kotula, describes several ecosystem service frameworks and outlines how these frameworks can inform land-use decisions, focusing on those involving forests. She also describes methods for valuing ecosystem services and gives examples of forest ecosystem services and draw conclusions based on existing valuation studies in Aotearoa New Zealand. The paper conveys how an ecosystem service approach could be used to capture benefits from ecosystems not often accounted for in land-use decisions.
Society depends on services and benefits provided by ecosystems. Yet, many of our actions affect ecosystems in ways that undermine long-term human well-being. Although ecosystems provide many services to society, many of these services are not accounted for in land-use decisions.
Mātai Interns & Turanga FM Interview
February 2023: Ariana Brown and Jackson Clarke, two of 16 Mātai Medical Research Institute interns talk to Turanga FM about their background studies, what Mātai has to offer, and how they are impacting their community as a whole.
Thanks to support from Te Puni Kokiri, Hugh Green Foundation, Turanga Health and the University of Auckland, Mātai is able to provide summer internships for a number of students from November to January.
Undergraduate interns are typically enrolled in health science, medical or engineering degrees at a national university, and from (or with ties to) Tairāwhiti Gisborne. The ten-week programme provides students with the opportunity to be involved with cutting-edge projects, working alongside a team of expert scientists, clinicians, research staff, PhD students, and Iwi health providers.
2022/23 Summer Interns at Mātai Medical Research Institute. Photo: Mātai Medical Research Institute.
Scarlatti: What does collaboration and co-design mean?
February 2023: We often hear the terms collaboration and co-design as we plan and undertake projects, but what do these mean in practice? Scarlatti's Senior research manager Denise Bewsell explores the topic.
"Let’s say you have a project with input from over 240 researchers, extension personnel, farmers, and growers. How do you empower everyone? How can people be equally heard? How can people be enabled to make important decisions collaboratively?"
Denise writes that the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation is a framework used internationally to help determine the level of participation required for the public's role in a public participation process. IAP2 - International Association for Public Participation - seeks to promote and improve the practice of public participation / community engagement globally through targeted initiatives that are guided by culturally adaptive standards of practice and core values.
Mātai: Image of the future
February 2023: Join Mātai Medical Research at the Gisborne War Memorial Theatre on Thursday, 23 February for an update on Mātai progress, and keynote talks from globally renowned experts in medical sciences and imaging technology.
7:00pm: Drinks & Nibbles
Speakers include Emeritus Professor Graeme Bydder, Emeritus Professor Terry Peters, Emeritus Professor David Hawkes, Associate Professor Graham Wilson, Associate Professor Miriam Scadeng, Professor Alistair Young, and Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer.
- New imaging & intervention tech for prostate disease
- Mātai meth study & concussion project progress
- Imaging for guided interventions
- A time machine for future health
- AI-enhanced heart imaging
- Improved brain MRI
Aqualinc: Septic tanks out of sight, out of mind
February 2023: Aqualinc's Ross Hector studies septic tank systems and is continually looking for ways to improve them. He says it's common for rural landowners to dispose of wastewater via septic tanks or similar wastewater systems as the distance to a reticulated network is just too great.
But he says that many people with these types of systems may know little about it - exercising an 'out of sight, out of mind' policy. He says this is largely because visible on-site issues rarely occur.
"However, should a system not be functioning correctly, then concentrations of contaminants entering the environment, and groundwater in particular, may be more significant than expected."
This is especially concerning if systems are installed with close proximity to drinking water bores.
Ross writes that recent research has shown that as much as 30% of New Zealand's septic tank systems may have issues.
New Bragato rootstock trial
February 2023: As vineyards age and succumb to trunk disease, there is an urgent need for information to support replanting decision-making. The selection of rootstock is one of the most important decisions in the development of a vineyard. To address this issue, the Bragato Research Institute recently started a rootstock research programme. A new research trial was planted in October 2022 in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough. It includes 14 rootstocks combined with three levels of irrigation, with the goal of identifying rootstocks that will prepare us for a warmer and drier future.
Dr Carmo Vasconcelos reports that climate change has impacted viticulture in almost all wine regions in recent decades, primarily due to rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, affecting grape yield and quality.
She writes that the water footprint of agriculture is also under increased scrutiny, and industries need to be prepared for future restrictions on water available for irrigation.
BRANZ: Supporting better mental health
February 2023: Earlier BRANZ research showed mental health and suicide to be major issues facing the construction industry. This year, new research with a wider lens across all industry occupations illuminated the full extent of the issue and the demographic groups most at risk. This new perspective will enable targeted interventions and more-effective development of tailored support.
In the ground-breaking 2018 BRANZ study Mental health in the construction industry, they highlighted that construction workers were more likely than the rest of the workforce to lose their life to suicide.
A catalyst for action, the research prompted the establishment of workplace mental health programme MATES in Construction (MATES) in New Zealand in 2019.
MATES trains construction workers in offering mental health support to their colleagues and asking for help when they are struggling themselves.
Now, MATES has data from two new studies published this year, which it is using to target its interventions more effectively.
Cawthron: Scientists observe warming seas for harmful algal blooms
February 2023: In this RNZ article Niva Chittock reports on the work of the Cawthron Institute monitoring New Zealand's waters for harmful algal blooms - a situation that could arise more often if rising sea temperatures entice more harmful algal blooms from the sub-tropics to New Zealand's shores.
Aquaculture research scientist Dr Anne Vignier said while the exact impact of warmer ocean temperatures was not yet known, it was likely to have negative consequences for seafood.
"We're already seeing reduced resilience in commercially important fish and shellfish species with increased water temperatures, and then if you put harmful algal bloom exposure on top of that, it's an extra stress," says Dr Vignier.
Warmer sea temperatures may change how harmful algal blooms act too, she said.
A Noctiluca scintillans bloom in Blackwood Bay, 2012. Photo: Cawthron Institute.
Motu: Covid-19's impact on the Economy
February 2023: Dr John McDermott, Chair of IRANZ, Executive Director at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and a well known macroeconomist, addressed the Port Nicholson Rotary Club on 25 January with reference to the things that can happen in an economy when external events such as a pandemic can drive consumers, businesses, governments, and central banks to react in different ways.
To provide an example of how inflation can be generated and controlled, John referred to a 1970s story of the Washington DC Capitol Babysitters Co-op, whose purpose was to fairly distribute the responsibility of babysitting between its members. The story is often used as an allegory for a demand-oriented model of an economy. The allegory illustrates several economic concepts, including the "paradox of thrift" and the importance of the money supply to an economy's well-being.
Brent Gerrard reported on the talk for the club.
Dr John McDermott speaking about the impact of the pandemic on the economy. Photo: Port Nicholson Rotary Club.
Motu: Quarterly Post-World War II Real GDP Series for New Zealand
January 2023: The prospect of recession is looming ever large as central banks act to restore price stability. To understand the nature of recessions, you need a long historical record.
Unfortunately, official Aotearoa New Zealand data on quarterly real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only goes back to 1987, limiting our ability to understand the nature of growth or frequency of recessions.
To help, Motu Research's John McDermott and Viv Hall (Professor at Victoria University of Wellington) recently updated their estimates of quarterly GDP back to 1947. This gives 75 years’ worth of economic history we can use to deepen our understanding of the Aotearoa economy.
The data is available for free on Motu's website. Download the excel file - or if you wish to access the data directly in Python, R or EViews - use the code provided on our website.
BRANZ: Advising on classroom ventilation to fight COVID-19
January 2023: About 10 minutes is all it takes for the air in a room to be exchanged with fresh air if you open windows on different walls. This helps remove or reduce particles that may be carrying viruses. This advice from the Indoor Air Quality Research Centre, which BRANZ helped establish, led to teachers ventilating classrooms as part of the COVID-19 response.
There are invisible dangers harbouring in the air inside some buildings that mean people might not be as safe indoors as they believe. Assembling the best minds in the country on ‘all things indoor air quality’ is helping to propel research in the field. This is in a bid to better understand the health effects and to find solutions to improving poor indoor air quality.
Experts from seven leading research organisations came together to form the Indoor Air Quality Research Centre (IAQRC): BRANZ, GNS Science, NIWA and the universities of Canterbury, Massey, Otago and Victoria.
Bragato: Ground wētā in the Awatere
January 2023: The endemic ground wētā, Hemiandrus bilobatus, lives in burrows in the soil, but its presence can negatively affect wine grape production. This is especially so in vineyards in the Awatere region in Marlborough. Vine growth in early spring provides the ground wētā with a buffet of fresh buds to feed upon, which causes damage detrimental to vine growth and fruit yield.
The current ground wētā management tool sees plastic sleeves wrapped around vine trunks in an attempt to prevent wētā from accessing the cordon. However, the sleeves are costly to install and maintain, resulting in a significant waste-management issue.
A Bragato research team is hoping to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable solution to the growing problem of ground wētā. Among the issues they write about are identifying wētā burrows during the day. It is not straightforward because the wētā make soil plugs or doors to close their burrow entrances, so they are hidden from view.
Installing pitfall traps in a vineyard to catch walking/jumping insects. Photo: Bragato Research Institute.
Malaghan: Gene-editing tech pushes boundaries of immune system exploration
January 2023: CRISPR-Cas9 is an exciting new addition to the Malaghan Institute’s repertoire of tools to investigate the immune system.
“There will always be new technologies that allow you to expand your research or even unlock knowledge that we had no way of accessing previously. CRISPR-Cas9 is one of those technologies,” says Dr Olivier Lamiable.
Olivier, a member of the Ronchese Lab at the Malaghan Institute, is a team leader using revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 technology to understand how allergic diseases develop on a cellular and molecular level.
“It allows us to precisely modify, add or remove specific parts of the DNA of live cells in a way that is faster and easier than any method before.”
Dr Olivier Lamiable is working to understand which genes are involved in the function of a molecule that might be involved in conditioning T‑cells to react and drive allergic responses. Photo: Malaghan Video.
TTW: Scientists back indigenous knowledge to restore kauri
January 2023: The future's looking brighter for a new generation of kauri trees. Working with scientists, rongoā Māori practitioners say they're close to finding a cure for kauri dieback disease.
Journalist Te Rina Kowhai from TV3's Newshub interviewed scientists Dr Amanda Black (soil scientist) and Dr Nick Waipara (plant pathologist) from Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW) about mātauranga Māori solutions in the battle against Kauri dieback disease.
"I'm optimistic that it's there, we are not there yet but we are getting there," says Nick.
But Nick cautions that more research is still needed to validate whether the soil-pathogen phytophthora agathidicida has been eradicated from the sick kauri trees treated with rongoā.
Amanda explained how the kahikatoa spray used on the soil to treat the sick kauri, uses a mix of mānuka and kānuka and scientists have found that flavonoids from kānuka do inhibit phytophthora - the microorganism which causes kauri dieback.
The item aired on 10 January 2023.
Cawthron: Devastating floods destroy aquatic life in Nelson's Maitai River
January 2023: In August 2022, devastating floods hit the top of the South Island, destroying aquatic life in its rivers and estuaries.
Journalist Alexa Cook from TV3's Newshub interviewed scientists from the Cawthron Institute about the ongoing impact from the event, which is believed to have killed 80 percent of the fish in Nelson's Maitai River. The scientists say it will take years for the area to recover.
"There's very little life - I'd expect a range of caddisflies, snails, perhaps some worms, mayflies," says Cawthron freshwater scientist Roger Young.
Those critters were stripped from their home when the meandering Maitai turned into a raging torrent. It left an almighty mess and killed at least 80 percent of the eels, trout, whitebait and other fish living in it, Alexa reported.
"It was pretty devastating. There weren't many fish in the river for a while, and very little for them to eat," says Roger.
The item aired on 10 January 2023.
Cawthron supports aquaculture expertise in the Pacific
January 2023: Researchers at Nelson’s Cawthron Institute welcomed aquaculture technicians from the Pacific Islands last month for a four-week knowledge exchange project funded through a joint Pacific Island government initiative.
Tuaine (Tutu) Turua, from the Ministry of Marine Resources in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and Rennie Reymond, from the Ministry of Fisheries and Mineral Resources Development in Kiribati were recently hosted at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park in Glenduan, Nelson, for four weeks.
Tutu Turua and Rennie have backgrounds in mariculture (marine farming) and hatchery production of various native species of commercial and cultural interest for the Pacific communities (e.g., pearl oysters, sea-cucumbers, giant clams, seaweed, freshwater prawns).
“The aim of our visit was to learn from Cawthron researchers’ shellfish hatchery expertise and take that knowledge back home to support our local shellfish industries."
Tutu and Rennie in the Cawthron Aquaculture Park labs working on their microalgae feed trial. Photo: Cawthron Institute.
Dragonfly: Kyuhan Kim presents PhD research at PICES in South Korea
January 2023: Dr Kyuhan Kim visited his home town in September and October 2022 for the first time in nearly three years. Not only was it an opportunity to see his family again, but also to share his research in best-practice fisheries science.
Kyuhan presented part of his PhD research at the annual meeting of PICES. PICES is an intergovernmental science organisation that coordinates marine research in the North Pacific. Member countries include China, Japan, Russia, US, Canada and South Korea. This year the meeting was conveniently held in his hometown of Busan.
“I spoke about the stock assessment models I developed at university and in my work at Dragonfly. I suggested some possible improvements for the current methods. About 30 people were in my session, and there was quite a lot of interest in my work.”
Kyuhan also spent time sharing his knowledge with the staff and marine biology students at Pukyong National University, where he studied for his masters degree.
Kyuhan presenting a talk at South Korea’s National Institute of Fisheries Science. Photo: Dragonfly.
Bragato: Growing Resilience for Sauvignon Blanc
January 2023: Bragato Research Institute is gearing up to ‘evolutionise’ Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to six scientists and a newcomer called PromethION.
Dr Darrell Lizamore leads the Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement Programme (Sauvignon Blanc 2.0) out of a laboratory at Lincoln University. He says the programme isn’t traditional breeding, crossing or genetic modification, but a mission to sequence the DNA of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, looking for patterns of increased natural mutation that may help vineyards respond to future challenges. “Plants have an innate ability to change their own genetics when confronted with an environmental shock. If we can use this response to produce vines with different traits, then we could select those better suited to future viticulture.”
From left, Dr Jessica Rivera Perez, Dr Ellie Bradley (epigenetics), Dr Bhanupratap Vanga (genotyping and phenotyping), Dr Solomon Wante (tissue culture), and Dr Darrell Lizamore (absent: Dr Annabel Whibley - bioinformatics). Photo: Bragato.
BRANZ: 10 years of sustainable new housing
January 2023: A long-term study of the sustainability of new homes shows not a lot has changed in the past decade. While there has been significant growth in sustainability services, most homes are still built to basic Building Code requirements. It seems that sustainable housing won’t increase until the Code requires it says BRANZ Building Scientist James Sullivan.
Since 2012, BRANZ has been tracking the sustainability indicators of new detached housing constructed in Aotearoa New Zealand. A study is carried out every 4 years, most recently in 2020 and focusing on random samples of newly consented detached houses in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch.
James writes that of the 210 houses examined in 2012, none could generously be classified as high performance with multiple elements having significantly above Code R-values. In the 2016 and 2020 samples, there were a few (7 and 5) – all in Christchurch.
Solar panels fitted on a roof. Photo: BRANZ.
Malaghan: Clinical study shows booster needed to protect against Omicron
January 2023: The Ka Mātau, Ka Ora study is the largest evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine immune responses in New Zealanders, focusing on some of the populations at higher risk from COVID-19, such as Māori, Pasifika, the elderly and those with comorbidities.
The latest data shows a first booster dose significantly improves the ability of vaccine-induced immune responses to neutralise viral variants, including Omicron, across all demographic groups, following a period of waning immunity after a second dose.
“The results are a clear call to action to the nearly one million New Zealanders eligible but yet to get their first booster,” says Dr Maia Brewerton, Clinical Director of Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo (VAANZ) which led the study.
“Vaccination continues to be one of the best tools we have for protecting ourselves and our whānau from getting really sick from COVID-19. But two doses isn’t enough – at least one booster dose is key against Omicron, particularly for people vulnerable to more severe COVID-19 disease, including our Māori and Pasifika populations.”