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Applied Research


Helping rebuild Christchurch's natural environment

EOS Ecology is leading the programme and is responsible for the project initiative, study design, programme management and implementation, monitoring, reporting. Our aim is for a collaborative and inclusive project with both environmental and social benefits, and outputs that are accessible to local community, resource managers, and science community. Shelley McMurtrie is programme leader and operational contact.
Whaka Inaka aims to align with Ngāi Tahu's wider plans for the long-term improvement in mahinga kai values for the area. Te Marino Lenihan (Tangata Tiaki, Ngāi Tūahūriri; contractor to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) has been acting on TRONT's behalf to lead Ngāi Tahu's involvement on the project, and liaise with local Ngāi Tahu hapū representatives and the Te Ihutai Ahuwhenua Trust.
Mike Hickford (Marine Ecology Research Group, research biologist) and Shane Orchard (Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, PhD candidate) are providing their time to assist with parts of this programme. Through this partnership the benefits of both projects are greatly enhanced.
Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ) is organising the volunteers for the programme.
Newstalk ZB Interview
Shelley McMurtrie talks with Newstalk ZB Canterbury Mornings' Chris Lynch about their innovative approach to getting whitebait re-spawning in Christchurch rivers.
A training video for teachers taking part in the Whaka Inaka Pest Monitoring Module.
The project team talking about Whaka Inaka and its funding by the DOC Community Fund.
Project Team Members
Project team members Te Marino (left with children), Shelley (centre right), and Mike (right) with Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner (centre) during the official announcement of DOC Community Fund support of Whaka Inaka.
Strawbale - temporary spawning habitat
Work by the University of Canterbury has found that straw bales make the perfect temporary spawning habitat for inanga. We will also use it as a tool to find out exactly where inanga want to spawn in our city rivers. Photo courtesy Shane Orchard, University of Canterbury.
Juvenile Inanga - Whitebait
Christchurch whitebait are made up entirely of inanga/inaka, which only spawn in certain parts of the lower reaches of our rivers, where the incoming tide inundates the bank vegetation where they lay their eggs. Photo © EOS Ecology/Shelley McMurtrie.

As New Zealanders we are all familiar with whitebait; they are a highly valued mahinga kai and many of us now partake in the passionate pastime of whitebaiting. Historically, Christchurch's rivers were renowned for their whitebait/inanga spawning habitat; early Pakeha settlers called them 'cow fish' as it turned the rivers white like milk.

Since then spawning in Christchurch has declined greatly, with changes to the banks and vegetation rendering much of their original spawning habitat unsuitable. The 2011 earthquakes created further damage and a shift in the saltwater wedge, increasing the uncertainty as to where their spawning areas now are. The reduction in spawning success here could also affect other Pegasus Bay inanga populations that are dependent on juveniles originating from these source rivers.

In the largest initiative of its kind, Whaka Inaka will greatly improve spawning success by providing temporary spawning habitat along 3 km of riverbank in the Heathcote/Opawho and Avon/Otakaro rivers, and will monitor them closely over the breeding season. In partnership with Ngāi Tahu, we will help improve mahinga kai values of the rivers, being a priority concern in the earthquake recovery process and a key natural resource for the local community. Linking with a University of Canterbury PhD research project, we will help identify new potential spawning locations and so assist in the longer-term goal to permanently restore spawning habitat.


Whaka Inaka is also a chance for local community to be involved in a project with positive change for the natural places within our city.

In partnership with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand, we will involve local community in the installation and removal of the temporary spawning habitat, and two volunteers will be more closely involved in the monitoring of spawning success with scientists from the project team.

Through publishing and celebrating findings using a range of innovative science communication techniques, we will also ensure that the project outputs are greater than the spawning benefits alone.


2016 Results Summary

2016 Engagement Summary

Pest Module Report Card

Download Whaka Inaka and Pest Module Story

Download Whaka Inaka Project Summary Document

Follow Whaka Inaka on Facebook

Contacting Project Lead


22 Nov 2017 - River Story Finalist

06 Apr 2017 - Radio Waatea

04 Apr 2017 - RNZ National

09 Dec 2016 - CCC Newsline

03 Apr 2016 - Te Karaka

10 Feb 2016 - RNZ National

09 Feb 2016 - Newstalk ZB

08 Feb 2016 - Southern View (page 4)

08 Feb 2016 - The Press Newspaper

15 Dec 2015 - Southern View (page 3)

14 Sep 2015 - The Press Newspaper




Whaka Inaka Supporters

Service Areas: Applied Research, Ecosystem Health Assessment

Suspended sediment is a significant issue for the Halswell River and its receiving environment, Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). As part of the Whakaroa Te Waihora programme, we have been tasked with investigating sediment inputs and sources to the Halswell River, and developing effective solutions to reduce these inputs within the catchment.

The programme encompasses quantifying and determining the key contributors of sediment to the river, identifying the main source of these key sediment contributions, and designing a tool box of management options specific to the identified sub-catchments or land use types.  A multi-phase, multi-year investigation encompassing a 32 km waterway and an 18,900 ha catchment is putting our applied approach to catchment sediment studies and ability to identify innovative yet practical solutions to good use.

Kayak survey.
EOS staff during the catchment familiarization phase, via a kayaking reconnaissance survey. grey-BR

Service Areas: Applied Research, Aquatic Sample Processing, Ecosystem Health Assessment

Having undertaken the most comprehensive sampling programme for Campbell Island’s aquatic habitats, EOS Ecology has developed the first key specific to the identification of these fauna, that is accessible online. 

Working with New Zealand’s notable freshwater invertebrate specialist, Professor Mike Winterbourn, and confirming identifications with taxonomists from around the world, the key and associated information sheets describe 36 taxa. This includes a confirmed new oligochaete species (M. mcmurtrieae), new distribution records, and other possible new species pending confirmation via DNA work.

The streams and tarns of Campbell Island are home to a moderately diverse community of freshwater invertebrates—many of which are endemic to the island. There is a much greater diversity of aquatic oligochaetes (worms) than previously expected, and the potential for a number of new species, which we hope to describe in later years subject to funding.

This key was made possible thanks to funding from TFBIS (Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) and EOS Ecology. Thanks also to the CIBE and 50º South Trust, who supported the expedition to Campbell Island.

Visit the Lucid Website.

Campbell Island keys screenshot.
The 200-odd freshwater invertebrate samples we collected from Campbell Island formed the basis for our new online identification key. grey-BR

Service Areas: Applied Research, Ecosystem Health Assessment, Aquatic Sample Processing, Science Communication, Photographic Resources, Original Artwork

Home to globally unique plants and animals, and an integral part of New Zealand’s heritage, in the 2010-2011 summer Campbell Island was the focus of the largest multidisciplinary research expedition in 20 years, of which EOS Ecology was a key member.

The first project to be undertaken by the 50º South Trust, the Campbell Island Bicentennial Expedition (CIBE) also marked the 200th anniversary of the island’s discovery. Twelve researchers and their support team working across six different fields from ecology to cultural history; were tasked with documenting the recovery of the island’s ecosystem from the world’s largest island pest eradication programme (undertaken by DOC), and determine how this isolated island system functions. The two-month long expedition brought years of scientific research together, and as part of the post expedition programme will provide recommendations for the Island’s future management.

As key members of the expedition team, EOS scientists studied the little-known freshwater streams, tarns, and seepages on the island. We were also responsible for coordinating the expedition, the expedition photography and video work, and undertaking the Science Communication for the funding campaign – with the expedition also being the first privately funded research expedition to the island.

Visit the CIBE Website

Follow the Campbell Island expedition on Facebook

Visit the 50 South Website

Megaherbs on Campbell Island
Unique to the subantarctic region, the colourful megaherbs on Campbell Island transform the landscape. grey-BR

Service Areas: Applied Research, Aquatic Sample Processing, Ecosystem Health Assessment, Urban Ecology, Science Communication

With the 2011 earthquakes affecting the City’s rivers, EOS Ecology was part of the science team tasked with working out the level of this impact. One of our tasks was to work out what impact the sewage overflows into the lower Avon and Heathcote Rivers was having on the aquatic residents, without any ‘before’ data against which to compare.

The EOS team devised in-stream cage experiments that would hold invertebrates in the river and track their survival over a number of days, with survival compared to cages housed upstream of the sewage inputs. Such a specialised project required some good old kiwi ingenuity to develop a cage setup that would safely hold them in the river but be made from readily available materials. We presented our findings in a visually interesting and easy reading report, designed to make the work more understandable to a wide public audience.

Download the Bioassay Experiments Report

Removing caged invertebrates from the Avon River control site
Removing caged invertebrates from the Avon River control site. grey-BR

Service Areas: Applied Research, Aquatic Sample Processing, Ecosystem Health Assessment, Science Communication

The stock water races of the Canterbury Plains are coming under increasing pressure from some landowners to be closed down. In their 100+ years of existence the water races have been colonised by native fauna and flora, which will be lost wherever races are closed. To assist the Selwyn District Council with a strategic review of their stock water race schemes, EOS Ecology undertook a field survey of the Malvern and Ellesmere schemes to determine sites and branches of high ecological value. The EOS team developed a rapid ecological assessment protocol covering aquatic invertebrates, fish, and plants (aquatic and riparian). Sites where ranked based on a series of criteria (e.g., species diversity, presence of threatened species) and assigned an ecological value of high, moderate, or low.

All this information was distilled into an engaging, easily understandable report by our Science Communication team, and a GIS layer was created that is now accessible to all Selwyn District Council staff to aid in their decision-making.

Download the Selwyn Water Races Survey Report

Sampling for fish using various techniques
The EOS team sampled for fish using a range of techniques. grey-BR

Service Areas: Applied Research

Drainage waterways are often the only remnant wetland habitat left in many landscapes, and so so are home to many native freshwater species. Such waterways are often subjected to macrophyte control, which may be detrimental to the native species found there. With this in mind, the Waikato Regional Council commissioned EOS Ecology to undertake a literature review on the ecological and physicochemical impacts of mechanical and chemical macrophyte management in soft-bottomed waterways. This involved a comprehensive search and synthesis of literature, and consideration of national and international best practice methodologies. Despite the prevalence of macrophyte control activities in New Zealand there has been minimal research into its ecological or physicochemical impacts and whether best practice methodologies have the desired effects.

Drag-lining for macrophytes
Drag-lining is a common means of removing macrophytes from deep streams and rivers. grey-BR

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