Recording old oceans centre tag.

Latest news

Scientists on an expedition to the underexplored Bounty Trough off New Zealand have discovered around 100 new and potentially new ocean species.
An expedition to discover new species in one of the most remote parts of the deep ocean is departing from Wellington today.
NIWA are studying the ocean off Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay to see how Cyclone Gabrielle has impacted the health of fisheries habitats and seabed ecosystems.
The 2022 Tonga volcanic eruption triggered the fastest underwater flow ever recorded.

Our work

Led by Ocean Census, NIWA and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a team of scientists are spending 21 days investigating the unexplored Bounty Trough ocean system off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Latest videos

Tonga eruption and tsunami shock the world

Tsunamis and shockwaves hit continents on the other side of the Pacific. The Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai (HT-HH) volcano was like a massive shotgun blast from the deep, generating the biggest atmospheric explosion recorded on Earth in more than 100 years. Funded by The Nippon Foundation, NIWA and SEA-KIT surveyed over 22,000km2 surrounding the volcano, including mapping 14,000km2 of previously unmapped seafloor as part of The Nippon Foundation GEBCO Seabed 2030 project. Find out more: https://niwa.co.nz/news/tonga-eruption-confirmed-as-largest-ever-recorded

Dive into the alien world of plankton in the Ross Sea

Plankton are the base of the oceans food web and are vital to our survival. But as our world changes will they be able to continue to play this essential role? Join us as we follow a group of NIWA scientists investigating various aspects of this question in the ocean around Antarctica.

Antarctic science onboard NIWA’s RV Tangaroa

Researchers are working their way through a wealth of new Antarctic marine data after RV Tangaroa successfully completed its five week scientific voyage to the Ross Sea. Voyage leader and principal fisheries scientist Dr Richard O’Driscoll outlines the team’s busy research schedule examining biodiversity and ocean dynamics in the world’s largest marine protected area.

Check out more stories from the 2021 Antarctic voyage

The instruments at work - In the volcano's wake

Our team onboard RV Tangaroa are equipped with all the tech and tools they need to explore the undersea changes caused by the devastating volcanic eruption in Tonga earlier this year. They’ve been using a range of nifty scientific instruments to sample all matters of the ocean from the seafloor through to the water column. The line-up includes the: - DTIS (deep-towed imaging system) - Multicorer - CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) - Glider Find out what each of them do in our video. The NIWA-Nippon Foundation Tonga Eruption Seabed Mapping Project (TESMaP) is funded by The Nippon Foundation and also supported by The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed2030 Project which aims to map the world’s ocean floor by 2030. Learn more on our website: https://niwa.co.nz/our-science/voyages/2022-tonga-post-eruption

Building better offshore mussel farms

Building better offshore mussel farms

Measuring mussel float motion by radar. The radar is equivalent to 30 police radars monitoring different points on the water surface.

Mussel farms near the shore face increasing space constraints, but building further offshore is not a matter of simply ‘beefing up’ an inshore mussel farm.
Existing large farms in areas like Golden Bay and the Firth of Thames are relatively sheltered.

Marine Environment Classification launched

Marine Environment Classification launched

The leader of the National Centre for Coasts & Oceans, Dr Ian Wright, talks with the Minister, and with Dr Barry Carbon, Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment, at the launch.

‘Not only is the MEC a great tool; it is a strategic tool.’ Hon Marian Hobbs, Minister for the Environment.

The Minister for the Environment, Hon Marian Hobbs, formally launched New Zealand’s first Marine Environment Classification (MEC) last month.
Hailing the MEC as a world-class environmental management tool, the Minister said that be

Sounds surveyed

Sounds surveyed

The wreck of the Soviet cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov which sank at Port Gore, Marlborough Sounds, on 16 February 1986. This image was created by NIWA using the same high-frequency side-scan sonar technology that we use for mapping seafloor habitats for FRIAs, marine conservation, and port developments.

How green's the bay?

How green's the bay?

Mean chlorophyll concentrations in the Bay of Plenty for October 1997–2004.

NIWA is applying a cutting-edge method of estimating surface chlorophyll concentrations around the coast to help Environment Bay of Plenty with work on aquaculture management areas.
Chlorophyll is produced by microscopic plants (phytoplankton), and its concentration is related to the amount of phytoplankton in the water. These organisms are at the base of the marine food chain, so it is important to estimate how much phytoplankton there is.

Vessels rise to Argo challenge

Vessels rise to Argo challenge

It’s a float’s life: the 10-day cycle of data collection.

NIWA research vessels, criss-crossing the Pacific, are making a major contribution to Argo, the international ocean observation programme.
Argo aims to maintain a global network of high-tech floats measuring currents, temperature, and salinity in the upper ocean. ‘Filling the remote South Pacific was always going to be a big challenge,’ says Professor Dean Roemmich of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (San Diego, USA).
That’s where NIWA came in.

Wave rider buoy 'very valuable'

Wave rider buoy 'very valuable'

Since 1995, NIWA’s wave rider buoy off Baring Head, near the entrance to Wellington Harbour, has been providing the harbourmaster, Toll NZ (formerly Tranz Rail), and the MetService with accurate measurements of the waves off Wellington’s south coast.
Captain Mike Pryce is the Wellington regional harbourmaster.

Offshore exploration

Offshore exploration

This shows the modelled mean currents off the east coast of the North Island. The colours show the speed of the currents. The arrows show both direction and speed (the longer the arrow, the faster the current).
The main feature is the East Cape Current which flows down the east coast and turns off eastward near 42° S (south of the Wairarapa coast). Here it joins current from Cook Strait giving the strongest mean currents of over 30 centimetres per second (shown in red).

Habitat mapping highlight

Habitat mapping highlight

The demonstration on Tangaroa included imaging this wreck of a minesweeper which sank in Wellington Harbour in 1942 after colliding with an inter-island ferry.

Ian Wright (below right), national centre leader, and Kevin Mackay, marine data manager, demonstrating seabed mapping on RV Tangaroa.

Mapping life on the Napier seafloor

It sounds easy, but equipment and vessel time as well as unpredictable weather make it time consuming and expensive to map the seafloor using cameras alone.

At NIWA, we have developed a quicker, more cost effective method. First we acoustically map the seafloor using technology such as sidescan or multibeam sonar. We use the acoustic images, and our ecological experience, to guide where we deploy video cameras. Once we have the video footage, we use statistical techniques and ecological information on the importance of various species to classify the observations into habitat types.

Monitoring Auckland's intertidal zones

NIWA has been designing and analysing long-term monitoring programmes for the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) to check whether the ecology of some of the region’s harbours is changing.
It can be difficult to measure the impact of human-induced changes on the animals which live in the sandflats, mudflats, rock, beaches, and other terrain between the high and low tide marks. The creatures are generally small, hidden, and tend to cluster together in small patches.

The flotilla of icebergs currently off the South Island were probably once part of a much larger iceberg from the Ronne Ice Shelf, on the other side of Antarctica from New Zealand.

The chaotic world of our reefs

PDF of this article (6 MB)

Alistair Dunn
Neil Andrew
Computer modelling of apparently simple interactions in a reef environment has shown that these systems can change in a surprisingly complex way.

A kina barren.

The transition cycle showing sample pictures of the transitions between states for a simulated population of kelp and kina.

Relative numbers of kelp and kina over time from a single simulation.

When it comes to biodiversity, reefs (ridges of rock, sand, coral or other hard materials lying at or near the surface of the ocean) are often thought of as stable systems unless catas


All staff working on this subject

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Principal Scientist - Marine Geology
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Marine Ecologist - Quantitative Modeller
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Marine Biogeochemistry Technician
Freshwater Fish Ecologist
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
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Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) Numerical Modeller
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Marine Sedimentologist
Principal Scientist - Carbon Chemistry and Modelling
General Manager - Operations
Principal Scientist - Marine Geology
Principal Scientist - Marine Geology
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Marine Invertebrate Systematist
Coastal and Estuarine Physical Processes Scientist
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Marine Physics Modeller
Principal Scientist - Marine Ecology
Chief Scientist - Coasts and Estuaries
Principal Scientist - Marine Physics
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Physical Oceanographer
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