Marine biosecurity is a shared responsibility – that’s the takeaway message from Marine Biosecurity Toolbox Programme co-leaders, Oli Floerl and Anastasija Zaiko of Nelson’s Cawthron Institute.
The two researchers have spent the past few years bringing a large range of research collaborators, partners and stakeholders together to design and deliver a research programme that will produce transformative ‘tools’ that empower people in the marine environment. This includes everyone from Government regulators to boaties, and the hope is that these tools will help them manage risks, prevent pest establishment, and detect and respond to new incursions.
Oli Floerl said the 5-year Programme has already delivered research that is in the process of being translated into real-world solutions.
“We’ve made great progress - together with our Māori, science, government, and industry partners we are developing technologies to prevent marine pest establishment and enhance native species. We are incorporating Mātauranga Māori into how we approach this work, and also considering how we make the best use of our marine space and resources in a way that protects our marine environment from biosecurity threats,” Floerl said.
“We’ve also made great progress in improving our ability to detect Mediterranean fanworm by producing what is called a ‘point-of-need detection assay’ which is a specific test that we can use to detect this species in the field - this is something we also hope to do for other species in future.”
Marie Joo Le Guen, a research scientist at Marine Biosecurity Toolbox partner Scion Research says Scion’s expertise in manufacturing biomaterials is an asset to the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox project because researchers are able to conduct experiments using their custom manufactured biomaterials, like 3D printed substrates and surfaces they can submerge to monitor biofouling.
“This is an incredible opportunity to understand the settlement of native species and enhance our marine urban environment using technology.”
In addition to research, the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox also has a strong focus on public engagement and education. Programme co-leader Anastasija Zaiko said the involvement and empowerment of ‘citizen scientists’ would be central to its success.
“We need the ‘team of five million’ on board with our efforts to protect New Zealand from biosecurity threats and want to help a diverse range of people understand how these issues affect them and what they can do to make a difference,” Anastasija Zaiko said.
“We’ve been working hard to create opportunities for citizen scientists to engage in molecular biosecurity surveillance – from working with students and teachers in schools to events and workshops for the general public. Zaiko said Marine Biosecurity Toolbox researchers have just returned from a Microplastics and Marine Biosecurity expedition with partners from Blue Cradle and the AIM2 programme, that saw them exploring coastal areas throughout the Auckland and Northland regions, collecting data from a research vessel and stopping in at marinas and moorings along the way to hold public workshops and events.
The Marine Biosecurity Toolbox Programme is jointly funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the programme partners - a unique group of science, Māori, regulatory and industry organisations.
Check out the Programme website at www.biosecurity-toolbox.org.nz to find out about the team, our objectives and research activities, latest news items and to join our mailing list. If you have queries feel free to contact our team via the website or email Anastasija Zaiko (email@example.com) or Oli Floerl (firstname.lastname@example.org).