• Rachel Nepia capturing bee visits to native flowers. Image Rachel Nepia

    Rachel Nepia capturing bee visits to native flowers. Image Rachel Nepia

Research Projects

Customary approaches to ecosystem resilience Dr Phil Lyver, Manaaki Whenua

This project aims to determine how Māori customary approaches and practices contribute to protecting and restoring ecosystem resilience where humans are an integral part of that ecosystem. Reconnecting Māori communities with their natural environments, rebuilding whānau ora (family health and function), and eventually incorporating customary practices into contemporary environmental legislation are all part of this project.

Enhancing native biodiversity in agro-ecosystems Associate Professor Hannah Buckley, AUT

What knowledge is required to create and support change in the way native biodiversity is regarded, protected and managed in agricultural landscapes? The project team is addressing this knowledge gap by comprehensively assessing the socio-economic and ecological patterns and processes determining current outcomes for native biodiversity on farmland. They're also predicting future drivers of positive change in New Zealand agro-ecosystems.

Ecosystem tipping points Professor Jason Tylianakis, University of Canterbury

Researchers in this project are developing a framework – that can apply at local, regional and national scales – for detecting ecosystem improvement, reversing ecosystem degradation, and preventing harmful self-reinforcing changes (tipping points or thresholds) in ecosystems. The aim is to reverse degradation across a range of ecosystems and to nudge these systems towards a healthy, self-reinforcing state. A range of case studies span natural and primary production ecosystems in land-based and freshwater domains.

Inaugural Bruce Clarkson PhD Scholarship

As interim Director of the BioH Challenge, Professor Bruce Clarkson (University of Waikato) shepherded the Challenge through a crucial phase in the formation of Science Challenges. Bruce’s vision, passion, and drive for greater collaboration across the science system set the BioH Challenge on a strong path to success. In recognition of Bruce’s contribution, the Challenge Governance Group  established a PhD Scholarship in his name. Rachel Nepia is the first recipient of the scholarship.

Restoring pollination networks Ms Rachel Nepia, University of Waikato

The number of honeybee hives on conservation land has increased markedly over the past 20 years, with a 60% increase in 2017 alone. While honeybees are often thought of as ‘the good guys’, the list of their negative impacts is extensive: competition with native fauna for pollen, nectar and nesting hollows; inferior pollination of native plants; increased plant hybridisation; physical damage to plants; and exacerbation of exotic weed problems. These potential impacts need to be better understood. Rachel is investigating how honeybees and native bees visit native plants, how they overlap, and how the availability of resources affects those interactions. Cutting-edge DNA barcoding techniques are being used to analyse interactions among honeybees, native plants and other flower visitors. 3D network modelling then deciphers the properties of these interactions, highlighting where honeybees are important or where native bees are at risk of competitive exclusion. A detailed inventory of flowering and the collection of nectar, pollen and environmental data are part of understanding fluctuations in floral resource production, the impact of those fluctuations on flower visitors, and implications for seasonal apiary management. Rachel’s research will clarify a path toward more effective management of apiaries on public conservation lands. The PhD is co-supervised by Dr David Pattemore (pollination scientist, Plant & Food Research), Catherine Beard  (science advisor, ecology, DOC) and  Dr Mike Clearwater (University of  Waikato), in addition to Prof. Clarkson.

Rachel's blog:

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