By Guest Author 27/12/2016

Fieldwork will see marine ecologist Dr David Bowden travel more than 7000km over January. He is leading a voyage aboard NIWA research vessel Tangaroa to study seabed habitats of the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand.

The Chatham Rise, which stretches for about 1000km from near the South Island to the Chatham Islands, is one of New Zealand’s most productive fisheries areas. The major hoki and orange roughy fisheries are here and it is also abundant in hake, ling and scampi.

Dr Bowden’s aim on this voyage is to find out more about what lives on the seabed.

“If we, as a society, want to use the seabed we need to know what kinds of fauna and habitats are there and how these are likely to be affected by disturbances such as trawling. But it’s not easy to do that. As with most areas of the deep-sea, the seabed fauna of Chatham Rise have been sampled at relatively few locations. We use statistical modelling methods to predict what might be in between these locations but a lot of uncertainty remains.”

Photographic sampling – using still and video cameras – will improve knowledge of what lives on the seabed, while a multi-corer will provide data about seafloor sediments.

“Distributions of animals on the seabed are influenced by their physical habitat, so we want to know what the seabed sediments are like in this highly productive part of the ocean.”

The month-long voyage, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries, leaves Wellington on January 5 and is the first of its kind since 2007.

Meanwhile, another NIWA vessel is heading to the Kaikoura Canyon at about the same time to examine how it might have changed since November’s MW7.8 earthquake. The canyon comes within 500m of the coast south of Kaikoura. Marine geologist Dr Joshu Mountjoy will use scanning technology aboard research vessel Ikatere to remap the canyon rim.

Summer is for scientific fieldwork. This article is from the NIWA Summer Series, sharing the stories of scientists heading into the wild blue yonder.

Featured image credit: Dave Allen.