Coasts and Oceans research projects

Find out more about some of our coasts and oceans-related work.

The main breeding population of New Zealand sea lions at the Auckland Islands has halved in size since the late-1990s; NIWA scientists are working with the government and experts from around New Zealand and overseas to understand why.

A NIWA-led project to tackle coastal acidification in New Zealand.
Estuaries and coasts provide a wide range of benefits to New Zealanders – “ecosystem services”. However, we still don’t know enough about these ecosystem services – a challenge NIWA and other scientists are tackling with a new technique.
Biological traits analysis is a valuable tool for measuring ecosystem function.
Ocean acidification conditions around the New Zealand coast are being measured to establish baseline conditions and to quantify future change.
We are using modern techniques to map seafloor surrounding Kapiti Island, an area of significant cultural and environmental value to New Zealand.

Marine scientists have long recognized the potential of using remotely-sensed data, most often acquired using a sonar system, as a proxy of biophysical indicators.


Interest in offshore petroleum and minerals exploration is growing rapidly as investors identify the potential economic returns from New Zealand’s rich marine resources. The challenge for management agencies and scientists is to facilitate development of this natural wealth while ensuring environmental sustainability is not compromised.

NIWA has joined with the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury and Cawthron Institute to form Marine Futures, a research programme funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Long-term datasets that track persistent change in the environment are a critical component of any modern ecosystem-based approach to natural resource management and sustainable growth.

The Southern Ocean has a strong influence on New Zealand and global climate. To understand how the oceans have changed over 1000s of years we use sediment archives from the seafloor.

Since the early 2000s, NIWA has been part of the international Argo programme, which is deploying floats to measure temperature and salinity throughout the world's oceans.

The seaweed known colloquially as nori in Japanese - used for making sushi - or karengo in Maori has been reclassified by an international team of scientists including NIWA's Dr Wendy Nelson.
River plumes form one of the primary connectors between river-estuary systems and the coastal ocean.

The Ocean Survey 20/20 (OS 20/20) programme is a Government initiative, which aims to provide New Zealand with better knowledge of its ocean territory, including New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Continental Shelf and the Ross Sea Region.

Understanding how material released into the ocean spreads is very important in the case of oil spills, sediment transport and the release of invasive species. 

How do marine micro-organisms influence the earth's atmosphere and climate?

We need information on the food web structures of our marine ecosystems in order to manage the effects on the ecosystem of fishing, aquaculture and mining, as well as understanding the potential impacts of climate variability and change on our oceans. 

Where and when do white sharks occur in New Zealand waters, and how can fisheries bycatch be reduced?
New Zealand's Kaikoura Canyon is a 'biodiversity hotspot', containing far more life than seen before at such depths.