Complexity and the Biosphere

 

Te Pūnaha Matatini is applying network analysis, complexity theory, and dynamical systems methodologies to understand the biosphere.

 

Our work

The diversity of life on Earth is the planet’s most striking feature; recent estimates are that fewer than a million of approximately eight million animal species have been described.

Biodiversity exists at a large range of physical scales: multicel- lular eukaryotes have linear dimensions that range in size from tens of microns to tens of metres, and metazoans encompass 17 orders of magnitude by volume.

The ability of next generation sequencing technologies to e ciently and simultaneously analyse massive numbers of DNA molecules has allowed the diversity and ecology of microbial communities to be examined in previously unfeasible detail.

This vast new resource for understanding the hidden majority of species that contribute to New Zealand’s terrestrial ecosystems and ecosystem services will require new tools for its analysis and visualisation.

 

Our impact

Our research in Complexity and the Biosphere provides quanti- tative tools that help inform national and local government policy and decision-making, for example in biosecurity, conservation management, and pest eradication programmes. Our research aims to provide data to help New Zealanders better understand the relationship between us and our unique ora and fauna by analysing the iNaturalist citizen science platform.

 

Our research

Making use of data concerning New Zealand’s biodiversity will enable better understanding of our unique ora and fauna, by both informing policy and decision-making, and building community capacity. This research theme has a close partnership with New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, via investigator Dr Andrea Byrom, its Director, and with Scion through postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Turner, funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini and the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge. We also work with iwi and other stakeholders at the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, and Hawkes Bay Regional Council.

 

Research highlight: Modelling large-scale predator control measures

We have a close partnership with colleagues at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. Manaaki Whenua has provided co-funding and co-supervision for a PhD student developing methods for using citizen science data. Te Pūnaha Matati- ni-funded postdoctoral fellow Audrey Lustig has started a part- time position at Manaaki Whenua to develop predator control models to inform a pest eradication programme on the Mahia Peninsula. The data that is driving a Te Pūnaha Matatini PhD project on possum contact networks has also been provided by Manaaki Whenua.

Strong support from the University of Canterbury has resulted in the co-funding of three PhD students. One of these is also funded by Manaaki Whenua and two are co-funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini. The University of Canterbury has also provided substantial co-funding for the postdoctoral fellowship on pan-regional predator control, based in the Geospatial Research Institute.

 

Peer reviewed journal article

• Lustig A., James, A., Anderson D., Plank, M. “Pest control at a regional scale: identifying key criteria using a spatially explicit, individual-based model”, Journal of Applied Ecology, In Review (2018).

 

National and International conferences

  • Lustig A., James, A., Anderson D., Plank, M. “Pest control at a regional scale: identifying key criteria using a spatially explicit, individual-based model”, Birtish Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 16–18 December (2018).
  • Lustig, A., James, A., Anderson, D., Plank, M. “Large-scale control of invasive predators”, Bio-Protection Research Seminar Series, Christchurch, NZ, 30 August (2018).
  • Lustig, A. “Modelling the abundance of mammalian species across the landscape, Stou er-Tylianakis Seminar Series, Christchurch, NZ, 24 May (2018).

Research highlight: ‘Mai i ngā maunga ki te tai – From the mountains to the sea – enhancing conservation using mātauranga’

Postdoctoral Fellow Tara McAllister is making good progress on the project ‘Mai i ngā maunga ki te tai – From the mountains to the sea – enhancing conservation using mātauranga’ Tara and Investigators Dan Hikuroa and Cate Macinnis-Ng were successful in securing an MBIE Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund grant to extend Tara’s work. The project is entitled ‘He waka hourua ki te ao kei mua – Mātauranga and Science engagement framework’ and is developing better processes and practices for research co-developed with Māori.