Te Rereatukāhia Marae, in Tauranga Moana rohe, played host in September for the Noho Marae (overnight marae stay) for IRANZ members.
The Noho Marae, for CEOs and other senior science leaders, was part of the Ngā Mahi Ngātahi Project to promote Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). Funded by MBIE’s EDI Capability Fund, and led by Cawthron and Takarangi Research, the project aims to develop best practice EDI guidelines for the research and innovation sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Following on from an IRANZ survey of members’ current understanding and approach to kaupapa Māori (the philosophies and practices of being Māori, and the current and historical impacts of colonisation on Māori society), the Noho Marae was designed to improve members’ knowledge of the issues that relate to EDI in Aotearoa.
The themes that were covered included ‘Understanding Māori principles, concepts, and perspectives’; ‘Engaging with Māori communities’; and ‘Understanding Te Tiriti and its relevance to your organisation’.
Researchers at Aqualinc have been considering how the multi-layered impacts of climate change may require variations to future water allocation, as well as how long-term water management strategies can minimise the impact on the New Zealand economy while protecting its water and land quality. Photo: Aqualinc Research.
Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability for children in Aotearoa New Zealand. An impairment in the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth leads to problems with movement and posture.
Radio New Zealand's Our Changing World programme recently interviewed Dr Geoffrey Handsfield of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute musculoskeletal modelling group. Geoffrey wants to understand what is happening in the muscles of children with cerebral palsy across time. To do this he is working with Mātai Medical Institute in Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) on a longitudinal MRI study of children both with and without cerebral palsy.
He hopes to figure out how muscle development is impeded in those with cerebral palsy and perhaps find some clues for how to help.
Recent research from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is offering new insight into how fruit and vegetables might protect against inflammatory bowel diseases.
“These findings offer a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between our diet and immune health,” says Malaghan Institute Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jeffry Tang, from the Gasser Laboratory. The study is funded by the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga.
“It’s a significant step towards understanding and potentially developing dietary strategies to manage inflammatory bowel diseases.”
Over 20,000 people are afflicted with inflammatory bowel diseases in New Zealand alone. It refers to diseases characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, often caused by the over activation of immune cells in the gut.
Dr Jeffry Tang. Photo: Malaghan Research Institute.
Mohamed's PhD study was supervised by Prof Richard Jones, Dr Reza Shoorangiz, Dr Govinda Poudel, and Dr Le Yang. His project used multiple neuroimaging approaches to determine what happens in the brain during complete lapses of responsiveness, in particular microsleeps (instances of sleep for several seconds) and mind-blanks (when the mind simply goes away). Image: Brain Research Institute.
The brain tries to quickly reestablish consciousness in times of potentially dangerous microsleeps and mind-blanks. PhD research at the New Zealand Brain Research Institute has observed the activity in the human brain.
A recent PhD graduate from the Brain Research Institute, Dr Mohamed Zaky, has had his work published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.
The publication covered an unexpected finding of increased high-frequency cerebral activity during microsleeps (complete losses of consciousness for several seconds). The team contend that this increased high-frequency activity reflects unconscious ‘cognitive’ activity aimed at re-establishing consciousness from what can otherwise be fatal microsleeps while performing an active task, such as driving.
A key report published by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ) has shown that Aotearoa New Zealand is leading the world in the adoption of a novel management approach recommended as optimal asthma treatment.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects over 610,000 adults and tamariki in Aotearoa New Zealand, where we have one of the highest rates of asthma in the world. Reducing the risk of asthma attacks is the number one priority for the management of asthma in New Zealand and internationally.
In June 2020, New Zealand adolescent and adult asthma guidelines, published by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand (ARFNZ), recommended that the budesonide/formoterol 2-in-1 combination inhaler, is the preferred reliever treatment for adolescents and adults.
The Patterns of Asthma Medication Use in New Zealand After Publication of National Asthma Guidelines study, undertaken by the MRINZ Asthma Programme research team, investigated whether these guideline recommendations were associated with changes in clinical practice indicated by asthma medication use trends.
Gillies McIndoe Research Fellow Dr Matthew Munro is investigating how repurposed drugs can be used in the treatment of meningiomas, the most common benign brain tumour.
Meningiomas are typically treated with surgery; however, many cannot be completely removed surgically and require radiation therapy. Some meningiomas are high-grade and can invade the brain and resist treatment. Currently there are no chemotherapy options for meningioma.
Matt is examining whether any existing drugs can be repurposed to treat meningioma. He has been working in the lab treating meningioma cells from patient samples with off-patent Pharmac-subsidised drugs. The next phase of his research aims to provide an understanding of how the drugs affect invasion of meningioma by looking at the proteins and metabolites in treated cells.
Matt and PhD student Clara López Vásquez had a poster presentation at a recent Queenstown Research Week conference, and Matt will also be presenting his meningioma project to the neurosurgeons at Wellington Regional Hospital.
M.E Research, a leading independent economic consultancy and research provider that specialises in understanding the complex interactions between the environment, economic activity, socio-demographic patterns, and land use, is the co-science leads on two new Endeavour-funded research programmes, and a contributor in a third.
The new co-science lead research programmes are the Massey-hosted Pungapunga Auaha: Partnering with tangata whenua to develop a new low-carbon pumice economic sector for Aotearoa-NZ which has been granted $7.9m over five years, where Co-Director at M.E Research Dr Nicola McDonald is a co-science lead; and the Victoria University of Wellington-hosted Ngā Ngaru Wakapuke – Building resilience to future earthquake sequences (granted $12.6m over 5 years) where fellow Co-Director at M.E Research Dr Garry McDonald is a co-science lead.
In addition, Garry is also a research aim lead on the GNS-hosted Hazard, risk and impact modelling for fast moving landslides (granted $10.4m over 5 years).
Cawthron Institute is celebrating the announcement that five of its bids for the 2023 MBIE Endeavour Fund round have been successful. Two Research Programme bids and three Smart Ideas proposals were awarded, making this Cawthron’s most successful contestable funding round to date.
Cawthron Institute’s Chief Executive Volker Kuntzsch says these results will enable science that has a significant real-world impact against some of the biggest challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment, economy, and society.
“In a competitive funding environment where there are so many strong bids submitted, this result speaks to the innovation, collaboration. and hard work of our researchers, and I am thrilled for them,” says Volker.
“Our vision is to create a better future where ecosystems are healthy, communities are thriving, and we have a prosperous blue economy, and all of these successful bids enable research that supports those outcomes.”
The Waikato River is at the centre of a new multi-million-dollar programme aiming to reveal how increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are affecting rivers and lakes – and what that means environmentally, economically, and socially.
Lincoln Agritech is leading the new five-year, $10m research programme funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, studying how increasing CO2 is changing the water quality of the Waikato River.
The aim is to develop a model that predicts harmful algal blooms in freshwater systems and the effectiveness of preventative measures.
“We know that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is making oceans more acidic,” says Dr Roland Stenger, Lincoln Agritech’s Principal Scientist, Environmental. “But we don’t know the impact of atmospheric CO2 on freshwater. We think freshwater is acidifying faster than the oceans in some places, and where this is most pronounced, CO2 could be driving other ecological changes.”
In the September issue of Canterbury Farming Newspaper, Aqualinc's Dr John Bright talks about "Time for a back-to-basics approach to water consents".
John writes that getting water consents and complying with their conditions is a major headache for most farmers who irrigate. Going "back to basics" could simplify the process.
Simplifying water consents would make them easier to manage, for everyone, reducing costs; reduce uncertainty about what you can and cannot do and provide greater clarity about compliance; and enable longer-term consents, reducing costs for all parties.
"Under the Resource Management Act, you can’t take water and you can’t use water unless you have the necessary consents (unless the activity is permitted in some other way). Current practice for almost all regional authorities is to bundle everything up into a water 'take and use' consent.
"As pressure on rivers and aquifers has increased, so too has the complexity of the conditions included in each “take and use” consent."
The Sauvignon Blanc Grapevine Improvement programme is one step closer to achieving its goal of increasing the resilience of the New Zealand wine industry, with the completion of a reference genome.
Multiple audits of the wine sector have identified our reliance on Sauvignon Blanc and a lack of genetic diversity as one of the biggest risks facing our industry. The Sauvignon Blanc 2.0 project was launched in 2021 with the goal of producing a large population of new Sauvignon Blanc plants, some of which we expect to have beneficial characteristics for the New Zealand market. Importantly for our premium variety, this is to be achieved using methods that do not fall foul of varietal or genetic modification restrictions and which do not rely on the prohibitively expensive import of new plant material to the country.
Bragato Research Institute’s (BRI’s) Grapevine Improvement team has been building capability in cutting-edge genomic sequencing technologies and analytical methods. In October, BRI reached a key milestone in the project: obtaining a complete and highly accurate reference genome of the Mass Select (UCD1) clone that underpins much of the Sauvignon Blanc planting in New Zealand and which is the genetic background for their work to generate novel diversity.
Dr Annabel Whibley writes about her genomics research at BRI. Photo: Bragato Research Institute.
An older driver. WSP Research Leader Bill Frith says older drivers are involved in proportionally fewer crashes than middle-aged drivers. However, due to increased fragility, when they do crash they're more likely to get hurt than younger drivers. Photo: Andrea Piacquadio.
Today, one in four licensed drivers are aged over 60. By 2028, one in four New Zealand drivers will be 65 years or older and as health technology improves and more people live longer, that number will increase. In the not-too-distant future, a third of the population will be in the 60 to 90 age group.
Recognising the significance of this, the AA Research Foundation commissioned WSP Research to investigate the implications of having more older drivers on our roads. The research involved looking at existing statistics, surveying older drivers, examining the implications for infrastructure and talking to driver training experts about the problems that older drivers face.
WSP Research Leader Bill Frith says the research debunks the myth that older people are higher-risk drivers.
Mackie Research supported Auckland Transport (AT) to publish an article in the latest edition of the Journal of Road Safety on AT’s Mass Action Pedestrian Improvement programme.
Auckland’s road safety performance deteriorated significantly with death and serious injury crashes increasing by more than 70% between 2014-2017 compared to the previous five years. A fifth of all pedestrian related crashes in Auckland occurred at existing zebra crossings. In response, AT’s Mass Action Pedestrian Improvement programme upgraded 37 existing at grade crossings to raised zebra crossings between 2018/19 and more than 100 crossings have since been upgraded across the network. The paper discusses the research undertaken to inform the programme and how outcomes and impact were evaluated.
Overall, the evaluation showed that the programme delivered significant safety benefits and provided support for AT’s continued use of raised safety platforms at high-risk locations.
BRANZ Senior Structural Research Engineer David Carradine and BRANZ Senior Materials Scientist Catherine Nicholson write about how new construction and design methods that save time and money while also meeting zero-carbon targets could be best used in the New Zealand building sector.
"Aotearoa New Zealand needs fast and affordable construction that supports the transition to a zero-carbon built environment. As efforts increase to develop and construct innovative, resilient and high-performing buildings and building systems, it is also critical to ensure we are making progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment. It is a delicate balancing act between innovation that we can trust and environmental wellbeing – but one that is very significant for all of us.
“Non-traditional building systems – a research project currently under way as part of the Transition to a zero-carbon built environment programme at BRANZ – seeks to provide an increased understanding of how to evaluate innovative and non-traditional building systems across a range of issues relevant to contemporary buildings."
As an employer, the first step to attracting and retaining people is putting forward your best offer. To do this, you need to understand what employees value most.
Scarlatti Director Adam Barker writes about the challenges many of New Zealand’s primary industries face in attracting and retaining people.
“In this job market, there are often more jobs than people available making the primary industry employment market an ‘employees market’ where potential employees sit in the bargaining position in terms of wage, location, benefits, and hours. A savvy potential employee could name their price.
"If employers understand how competitive their job offer compares to other similar jobs within their sector and other sectors, they can refine their offers to attract the best applicants... This means understanding what job factors (aside from wages) have the most influence on potential employees."
Adam details how the Scarlatti team worked with DairyNZ on their “Know the Market” project, an initiative to help dairy farm employers understand the competitiveness of their farm assistant job offers compared to employment opportunities in other sectors.
Dr Karaitiana Taiuru researches Māori AI, data sovereignty, and emerging tech ethics. This month he blogs about 'Te Tiriti o Waitangi Principles for Robotics'. These principles have been adapted to general robotics for both the industry and research to better assist the industry to acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi. If creating robotics for health, then there are nationally agreed Te Tiriti principles for health that should be used instead.
For researchers, these principles can be used as a guide for grant applications to meet Vision Mātauranga Māori and other criteria; and for developers as a high-level guide to ensure that robotics work will be culturally safe and recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
If a robotics project is using Māori Data, then the Māori Data Sovereignty Principles should be used in addition to these principles.
"At this stage, community consultation is still being undertaken about AI from a te Ao Māori perspective."
HERA's Structural Fire Research Engineer Dr Fanqin Meng has been researching the behaviour of steel in standard fires. He writes about some of his team's findings.
Steel columns are likely to expand vertically during a fire, resulting in an increase in internal force within the steel column. Due to material degradation in a fire, the column will likely buckle and fail quickly.
“However, previous research on the restraining influence of connected elements on steel columns has primarily focused on the point at which the column’s internal force returns to its initial value."
Research has primarily explored the structural fire performance of restrained columns during the expansion phase while neglecting their performance during contraction. "However, structural stiffness plays a significant role in limiting the vertical deflection of the column during contraction."
Fanqin writes that the current study aims to comprehensively investigate the performance of restrained columns in a fire.
In the quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost social outcomes, it can be hard for Aotearoa New Zealand’s urban communities to know where to start. Now, thanks to a new WSP research project, they can see what’s worked well elsewhere.
Led by WSP technical principal for social science Vivienne Ivory, the project mapped twenty-one studies of emissions reduction interventions across Australasia, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia that also had community benefits.
The neighbourhood to city-scale interventions included urban greening, creating denser urban form, encouraging people to use cycling and public transport, using smart construction technologies, low emissions energy, and introducing more efficient wastewater and stormwater systems.
Commissioned by the Building Research Association (BRANZ) as part of its Transition to a Zero-Carbon Built Environment Programme, the project’s outputs are aimed at local and central government decision-makers wanting evidence on what interventions may (or may not) work.
Irrigation in Canterbury began with large areas of border dyke, supplied by open-race schemes. In the early 2000s, this changed rapidly to spray irrigation, predominantly centre pivots. There is now very little border dyke remaining.
A number of irrigation schemes have converted from open race to pressurised pipe distribution, eliminating race leakage and by-wash losses. Overall, much less water is now being used to irrigate each hectare, with increased efficiency of water use.
On the face of it, increasing water use efficiency seems like it must be a good thing: less stress on our precious water resources, and more "crop per drop". A win-win surely? Unfortunately, the answer isn't that simple and requires a bigger-picture view of the catchments that irrigation is occurring in. International research on this issue concluded that increasing the efficiency of on-farm water use rarely results in less water being used at a catchment scale. There is also potential for unintended adverse consequences.
White wines that have been made in a highly reductive way, for example New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, can sometimes develop a pink colour on exposure to air - it’s a curious phenomenon known as “pinking.”
White wines are celebrated for their crisp and clear appearance, but pinking introduces a rosy hue. This colour anomaly can crop up during winemaking or after the wine is bottled, causing concerns for both winemakers and wine enthusiasts.
Researchers at the Bragato Research Institute say there are a couple of methods to detect and quantify pinking. "One approach employs a spectrophotometer, a device that gauges how light is absorbed by the wine at specific wavelengths. By doing so, you can determine if anthocyanins are present.
"Another technique features a colorimeter, a tool that assesses the wine’s colour changes based on different colour properties. This provides a numerical value reflecting the degree of colour shift.
"Yet, numbers aren’t the only indicators. Sensory analysis is also important. Visually inspecting the wine is a reliable tool to evaluate pinking’s presence."
Pinking in white wine. Photo: Bragato Research Institute.
Lincoln Agritech plant pathologist Dr Jin Hua-Li. Working with scientists from Scion, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and the Foundation for Arable Research, Lincoln Agritech scientists will test the concept on brassica plants (a genus of plants that includes cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli). Photo: Lincoln Agritech.
Plant fungal diseases can be devastating for horticulture and agriculture – in the worst cases, wiping out entire crops.
But Lincoln Agritech scientists believe that altering the bacteria associated with disease-causing fungi will lead to new strategies to protect crops.
They have just won a $1m contract from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to develop attenuated (weakened) variants of disease-causing fungi that can be used to prime plants and protect against fungal diseases.
“In previous research, we found that the bacteria associated with a fungus affect its ability to cause disease,” says Dr Jin Hua-Li.
“Our novel approach will make fungi unable to cause disease by changing the bacteria that are associated with the fungi.”
Dr Patricia Rubio-Reyes has been selected as a KiwiNet Emerging Innovator for her invention which advances cutting-edge CAR T-cell therapies.
Working in the Hermans Laboratory at the Malaghan Institute, Dr Rubio-Reyes has invented a mechanism to deactivate CAR T-cells after administration, effectively providing a safety switch to ‘turn off’ CAR T-cells if they have severe side effects.
Her invention also has wide-spread applications across other cell therapies, doubling up as a method that can be used to detect cells that have been genetically modified. She is currently in the process of finalising the patent.
“After working in the lab for the last 14 years, I have found a new passion for commercialisation and this programme provides the tools for me to learn what happens between the lab and industry.”
As part of the year-long KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, Dr Patricia Rubio-Reyes will be provided with financial support and mentorship to build industry connections and the knowledge needed to understand the commercial potential of her invention. Photo: Malaghan Research Institute.
A new environmental project that aims to understand both the current day and historical health and biodiversity of Lake Wairarapa was launched at the end of August. The Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa-led initiative, called Te Raranga Māramatanga me Ngā Tipu, will involve kairangahau (Maori researchers) and freshwater scientists from Nelson’s Cawthron Institute and GNS Science in Lower Hutt.
Ra Smith, Kaiwhakahaere Taiao (Environmental Manager) for Kahungunu ki Wairarapa says the project will use a combination of scientific techniques and mātauranga Māori to gain a deeper understanding of current water quality and biodiversity and how the ecosystem has changed throughout history.
“Our goal is to restore the lake, but the question is, ‘to what?’ To answer that question, we approached scientists at Cawthron Institute and GNS Science...”
Ngāti Kahungunu representatives travelled to Nelson following the mihi whakatau to visit Cawthron Institute’s laboratories and understand more about the scientific research that will be enabled by the project. Photo: Cawthron Institute.
Radio New Zealand's Our Changing World programme recently interviewed Dr Geoffrey Handsfield of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute musculoskeletal modelling group. Geoffrey wants to understand what is happening in the muscles of children with cerebral palsy across time. To do this he is working with Mātai Medical Institute in Tairāwhiti on a longitudinal MRI study of children both with and without cerebral palsy.
HERA: Ep.99 – Student of the year on fire!
In this episode of Stirring the Pot HERA talks with Fanqin Meng. Fanqin, who is no stranger to HERA, is a Structural Fire Research Engineer within the HERA team. They are shining the spotlight on him as the recipient of the Student of the Year Award which he received at this year's Future Forum Industry Awards in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
Malaghan: Allergy development and the importance of fundamental research in scientific advancement
Marie-Sophie Fabre is a Senior Research Officer in Dr Olivier Lamiable’s team in the Ronchese Laboratory. Her research aims to understand the changes that occur when immune cells encounter allergens, laying the foundations for understanding allergy development.
IRANZ is an association of independent research organisations. Its members undertake scientific research, development or technology transfer. Members include Aqualinc Research Ltd, Bragato Research Institute, BRANZ, Cawthron Institute, DigiLab, Dragonfly Data Science, Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA), International Global Change Institute (IGCI), Land & Water Science, Leather & Shoe Research Association (LASRA), Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Mackie Research, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Manawatū AgriFood Digital Lab, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ), Mātai Medical Research, M.E Research, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, New Zealand Brain Research Institute, New Zealand Institute of Minerals to Materials Research, Scarlatti, Taiuru & Associates, Takarangi Research Group,
Te Tira Whakāmataki, WSP, and Xerra Earth Observation Institute.