Oceans

Recording old oceans centre tag.

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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

Specialised monitoring equipment has been installed in Bay of Plenty estuaries to understand whether our coastal wetlands can survive the threat of inevitable sea-level rise.
NIWA has world-class expertise in marine macroalgae and extensive research on various aspects of seaweed ecology, growth and taxonomy.

Use the Tide Forecaster to forecast high and low tides anywhere in coastal and ocean waters around New Zealand’s EEZ for up to 28 days 1 month. It also predicts historical tides back to 1830.

How can we help you?
NIWA scientists are monitoring the potential for another marine heatwave in New Zealand’s coastal waters this coming summer.
Forecasting sea surface temperatures several months in advance is challenging. To give us insights into what might happen around Aotearoa New Zealand in the months to come, NIWA scientists have combined predictions from eight different climate models from institutes around the world.
Have a look at what might happen around Aotearoa New Zealand in the months to come. Our simulations extend six months into the future.
Estuaries are coastal waterbodies where freshwater mixes with seawater. Many estuaries in Aotearoa New Zealand have been impacted by pollutants and contaminants entering via freshwater.
From scallop beds to trawl nets, a little bit of data science can make a big difference. Melissa Bray explains.
New findings from the record-breaking Tongan volcanic eruption are “surprising and unexpected”, say scientists from New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
Have a look at what might happen around Aotearoa New Zealand in the months to come. Our simulations extend six months into the future.
NIWA is contributing to an international effort to help developing countries reduce the impact of biofouling on aquatic-based industries and environments.
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

Mapping the Tongan volcano eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai

This important scientific voyage represents a significant opportunity to map the changes in the seafloor and collect samples to understand how the geology, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem health has been impacted. Up until the eruption on 15th January, the volcano caldera sat approximately 150 m below sea level and part of the volcano connected the islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai. Following the eruption, the islands are smaller and no longer joined together. The scientists are surveying thousands of square kilometres of the seafloor and collecting video images of the eruption’s impact, and using SEA-KIT International’s Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer to conduct further mapping. 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. Follow the voyage here: https://niwa.co.nz/our-science/voyages/2022-tonga-post-eruption

What does science tell us about New Zealand mullet?
You’ll be blown away by what these women in science are doing onboard RV Tangaroa in the Tasman sea!
To give us insights into what might happen around Aotearoa New Zealand in the months to come, NIWA scientists have combined predictions from eight different climate models from institutes around the world.
New research from the Deep South Challenge: Changing with our Climate and NIWA shows that New Zealand could experience very long and “very severe” marine heatwaves by the end of the century.
Microplastics: a deeper problem than we thought?

There is increasing global concern about the presence of plastic pollution in our oceans. New research from scientists at NIWA and the University of Auckland has identified microplastic particles in marine sediments within the Queen Charlotte Sounds / Tōtaranui, New Zealand. In this pilot study, microplastics were found throughout sediments, up to 50 cm below the seabed. Microplastics were identified in sites near coastal populations and within marine protected areas. Findings showed numerous sizes and shapes of microplastics, indicating they came from multiple sources. The next steps in this research project are to identify the type of plastics and try to establish where they came from.

NIWA scientists and Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) have used satellite technology to chart the Cook Islands’ seafloor in never-before-seen detail. The work was done as part of Seabed 2030 - a collaborative project to produce a definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030.
X-craft and NIWA collaborate for fisheries rearch.

The six-metre-long autonomous vessel is equipped with artificial intelligence and a range of data gathering equipment, including a battery powered echosounder that can estimate the size of fish populations.

Called Nemesis, it has been developed by New Zealand robotics company X-craft Enterprises and has just been on its first deep water test run in the Cook Strait.

NIWA fisheries scientist Richard O’Driscoll is hopeful this type of technology will complement the work being done on the larger research ships.

“We’re delighted with how the trials went – there was a lot of tide pushing against the vessel, but it maintained its course perfectly. This new, state-of-the-art sea craft opens up opportunities for us to collect better information on fisheries,” said Richard.

“Hoki are one of the species we research – they have major spawning events, but we are currently only able to collect data on these for a few weeks every two years. With this vessel, we’d like to be able to monitor the entire spawning event, every time it happened.”

The vessel can collect good quality acoustic data in depths of at least 600 metres. It can be programmed to follow a specific track and is equipped with anti-collision technology.

Philip Solaris from X-craft Enterprises highlighted the wider impacts that new technology like this can have.

“With all the impacts of climate change and ecological damage, there has never been a more pressing time to employ all the technological capability at our disposal to monitor the state of our environment."

“With robotic craft we can deploy fleets over a very large area for an extended period. They can gather data remotely, be re-tasked and controlled from anywhere in the world, and are quiet, so have minimal disturbance to animals. They are also really cost effective.”

NIWA hopes to be routinely using the vessel for monitoring fish within the next five years.

A robot sea craft is the latest tool NIWA scientists are using to help them count fish.
Forecasting sea surface temperatures several months in advance is challenging. To give us insights into what might happen around Aotearoa New Zealand in the months to come, NIWA scientists have combined predictions from eight different climate models from institutes around the world.
Mapping the oceans through citizen science

Are you interested in helping map the seafloor? Small data loggers can be used to record information from the positioning (GPS) and echosounding (fish finder) systems of any type of vessel. The Seabed 2030 team can even send a technician to install the device correctly for you.

If you are in the Pacific and keen to be part of a growing community for the Crowdsourced Bathymetry Initiative, please contact: [email protected]

For more info, visit seabed2030.org/crowd-sourced-bathymetry.

Exploring deep-sea oases

Methane seeps, where gas escapes from the seafloor into the ocean above, support amazing deep-sea habitats. These habitats are built by unique microbes that harness energy from chemicals, like methane and sulphide, in the absence of any light. Through this, these microbes trap harmful greenhouse gases, make structures that provide homes for animals, and create food that supports an abundance of life. Scientists have been discovering dynamic and diverse methane seep habitats along the Hikurangi Margin off the east coast of Aotearoa New Zealand. Now, they are working to understand the vulnerability of these environments to human activities.

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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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