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The NIWA/University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography is comprehensively equipped for a variety of research in marine & freshwater chemical and physical studies. Its main laboratory typically houses 25 researchers, including staff and post-graduate students. Major research instruments and facilities include:

  • A Class 100 clean laboratory for trace metal analysis
  • Nu-Plasma multi-collector ICP-MS
  • HP-Agilent quadrupole ICP-MS
  • New Wave laser ablation accessory
  • Perkin-Elmer 4100Z Zeeman graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer
  • Thermo-Jarrell Ash Atomscan 25 inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometer
  • Two VG Aurora stable isotope mass spectrometers
  • Closed cell potentiometric titration system for seawater alkalinity
  • SOMMA - coulometer system for seawater DIC analyses
  • Nu-Plasma Attom High Resolution Sector Field ICP-MS
  • SeaFAST pico automated pre-concentration system for trace metals in seawater

In addition, the Centre has custom-built equipment for the measurement of seawater alkalinity, carbon dioxide partial pressure and continuous pH by CCD photometry. Sampling equipment includes a CTD-rosette system equipped with General Oceanics Go-Flo samples, Kevlar hydroline and trace metal-optimized Go-Flo samplers and a 2m box corer.

Being located in a mainstream Chemistry Department, the NIWA/University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography has access to a wide range of instrumentation and expertise, including 200, 300 and 500 MHz Varian nmr spectrometers, laser spectroscopy, (including surface-enhanced FTIR and Raman) and photo-acoustic spectroscopy. The department houses a fully-equipped microanalytical laboratory with 2 Carlo-Erba CHNSO elemental analysers, a glass blower and electronic and mechanical workshops.

We also have access to the facilities of the Portobello Marine Laboratory, including seawater incubation tanks, the 23m research vessel Polaris II and a number of smaller sea-going craft.

Finally, all staff and students working in the Centre have access to the research facilities of NIWA, and regularly participate in cruises of the NIWA ocean-going research vessel R/V Tangaroa.


The NIWA/University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography was established in the Chemistry Department, University of Otago in the early 1980's. It has grown from those modest early days to become one of the largest research groups in Australasia in this scientific area, comprising three academic staff members, 5 full-time researchers and a large number of graduate students.

The group has carried out a large number of research projects funded by government agencies.


The New Zealand Energy Research & Development Committee (NZERDC) funded a large-scale investigation of chemical water quality in the Manuherikia River, a major NZ lignite resource.

The MFC group mounted an international research cruise of the then DSIR vessel, R/V Tangaroa which investigated the chemical oceanography of the region around Cape Reinga and the northeastern Tasman Sea. This project formed part of the international Sea-Air Exchange (SEAREX) research program funded mainly by the United States National Science Foundation.

In 1989, scientists of the group took a leading role in a joint cruise that explored the chemical oceanography of the Southern Ocean south of New Zealand using the Australian vessel R/V Franklin.


The research group secured funding for studies of the chemical composition of New Zealand lakes and rivers, with particular reference to trace metals and their bioavailability (speciation).

In 1998, a specific investigation of trace metal speciation and bio-availability in pristine lakes such as Manapouri and Hayes.

The programme is ongoing, and is currently concerned with trace metal speciation and bio-availability in estuaries.

Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions focused on understanding the ocean-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.

In 1999, the Centre for chemical and Physical Oceanography secured its first grant from the Marsden Fund. This project concerns the process of colloid aggregation, which is important in both natural systems and in water and waste water treatment.

Centre scientists led and participated in the SOIREE (Southern Ocean Iron Enrichment Experiment) in 1999, which was the first Iron addition experiment in the Southern Ocean. SOIREE was successful in confirming that iron availability limits phytoplankton growth in this region, with a number of papers published in Nature and a special Issue of Deep Sea Research.

Learn more about our Research Programmes

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