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Division of Sciences Research

Research Groups at the Division of Sciences

University of Otago has some of the best research facilities in the country, with field stations and research vessels extending the reach to the sub-antarctic islands, Rakiura (Stewart Island) and Doubtful Sound. On-campus facilities and interdisciplinary collaborations create a wide range of possibilities.

Ag at Otago

Agriculture at Otago's research aims to underpin the profitability and sustainability of New Zealand's primary industries. To support the government’s aims to double the real value of NZ exports by 2025, it will be important to increase both production and the value of our primary products, while minimising the impact of agriculture on the environment.

It aims to help achieve this through quality, fit for purpose research involving three related platforms:

  • Enhancing agricultural productivity
  • Adding value to primary industry products
  • Sustainable and profitable environmental management

The synergies we facilitate between diverse research expertise across the University will make the overall impact of our research far greater than the sum of individual contributions.

Find out more about Ag at Otago

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Brain Health Research Centre (BHRC)

The BHRC is an interdisciplinary group of neuroscientists and clinicians that undertakes internationally excellent research aimed at understanding the mechanisms of brain health, disease and repair. Its mission includes the development of new treatments for neurological disorders, building research capacity for New Zealand by provision of high quality training of the next generation of neuroscientists, and actively engaging with relevant community groups and individuals.

Visit the Brain Health Research Centre

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Centre for Applications of Statistics and Mathematics (CASM)

The Centre provides statistical advice to University staff and students, as well as to external clients. This work ranges from straightforward application of standard techniques to full collaboration on a major piece of work, often requiring development of an analysis tailored to the research question. In addition, the Centre arranges specialised short courses, both at the university and for external clients.

Visit the Centre for Application of Statistics and Mathematics

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Centre for Trace Element Analysis

The Centre for Trace Element Analysis, hosted by the Department of Geology, specialises in the analysis of trace elements and their isotopes for wide-ranging applications in the earth, environmental, climate, planetary, archaeological and biomedical sciences.

Projects as diverse as past and present climate change, to the migration practices of prehistoric humans, to cell-transfer and metabolism in the human body can be investigated using these elemental and isotopic systems.

Visit the Centre for Trace Element Analysis

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Climate Chambers, Physics Department

The Climate Chambers in the Department of Physics are temperature and humidity controlled with a range of -5oC to 50oC and 30% to 90% respectively, with the temperature controllable to +/- 0.5 degrees. The area of each chamber is 18.5m2 and has a floor loading of 1 ton. They are available for equipment testing, process development and could also be utilised as a humidity and acclimatisation facility for sports people.

For further information contact Sam Lowrey

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Centre for Materials Science and Technology

The Clothing and Textiles Centre provides research, development, and technical/scientific advice for diverse groups interested in textiles, apparel, and leather. Interactions between textiles and the human body are of special interest - effects of textiles on human performance health and safety (e.g. mandatory workplace requirements, sport, skin health), biomaterials/biogels. Cultural relevance of textiles is another area of expertise.

Facilities include instruments for determining physical properties of fabrics, yarns and fibres (e.g. thermal and moisture transfer, tensile, impact, abrasion, microscopic, accelerated ageing) and sensory properties of fabrics and apparel (e.g. tactile, visual). Conditioned and climate-controlled facilities which meet international standards are available.

Enquiries from prospective post-doctoral fellows and postgraduate students are welcome at any time.

Visit the Centre for Materials Science and Technology

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Coastal People: Southern Skies

Coastal People: Southern Skies is a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) based at the University of Otago.

The collaboration connects communities with world-leading, cross-discipline research to support transformative change to rebuild coastal ecosystems.

The focus is on the changes resulting from ocean warming and acidification, sea-level rise, and climate change. Research includes responding to the decline in culture, local economy, and well-being of coastal people in New Zealand and across the Pacific.

Find out more about Coastal People: Southern Skies

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CSAFE - Centre for Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment

This is an interdisciplinary centre working on sustainability issues and their social impacts. It builds on the longitudinal study ARGOS which has operated for 30 years as a collaboration between Drs Hugh Campbell and Henrik Moller.

Visit the Centre for Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment

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Disease Research Laboratory

The DRL provides the scientific resources to study immunological markers associated with protection or disease caused by the Mycobacterial infections. Interactions between natural infection, vaccination, and experimental infection are covered in the work done by the laboratory.

Learn more about the Disease Research Laboratory

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Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies

Officially launched on 17 February 2015, the Dodd-Walls Centre is the first Centre of Research Excellence to be hosted by the University of Otago.

The Dodd-Walls Centre encompasses investigators from universities across New Zealand and is focused on the fields of precision atomic and quantum optical physics. DWC research explores the limits of control and measurement at the atomic scale through the use of laser light, the generation and manipulation of light at its most fundamental quantum level, and the processing and physical nature of information in this quantum realm.

The Dodd-Walls Centre has research teams built around four themes: Sensors and Imaging, Sources and Components, Quantum Fluids and Gases, and Quantum Manipulation and Information, and dedicated outreach teams. The Industry Team works towards the translation of the Centre’s research in to profit-making businesses and the establishment of new companies. The Educational Outreach Team works in partnership with the NZ museum sector, and especially the Otago Museum, to spread the excitement and passion for science and technology inherent in the Centre. Training of postgraduate students is also a key activity of the DWC.

Visit the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies

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Dunedin Study

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (also known as the Dunedin Study) is a detailed study of human health, development and behaviour.

It has followed the lives of 1037 babies born between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital, Dunedin, New Zealand, since their birth.

The Study is now in its sixth decade and has produced over 1300 publications and reports, many of which have influenced or helped inform policy makers in New Zealand and overseas.

Read more about the Dunedin Study

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Food Waste Innovation Otago

Food waste is arguably one of the most pressing societal challenges of our time.

Food Waste Innovation's goal is to harness the best scientific expertise to provide effective solutions to Aotearoa's food waste problems. Its research is already providing a credible evidence base for decision-makers in New Zealand:

  • Advising government and international committees on waste reduction targets, measurements and policies
  • Communicating to the New Zealand public about reduction initiatives
  • Providing consultancy services on waste-related issues to councils, businesses and industry organisations

Food Waste Innovation measures food waste, develops reduction strategies, applies innovative technology, and works to modify producer and consumer behaviour. It works collaboratively with stakeholders and supporters in the public and private sector.

Visit the Foodwaste Otago website

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Future Ocean Research Theme–Te Au Heke

Developed from the Ocean Acidification Research Theme, the Future Ocean Research Theme supports multi-disciplinary and collaborative research to understand human impact on our marine ecosystem and physical environment.

Using biological and physical time series, controlled experiments, and modelling to establish the interactions between chemical, physical, and biological processes, researchers focus on impacts with relevance for New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Visit the Future Oceans Research Theme page

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He Kaupapa Hononga

Climate action, including assessment, mitigation, adaptation, and restoration, is both the most pressing challenge of our time and an enduring problem that will structure research and policy for some time to come.

Such research is inherently interdisciplinary, requiring teams of experts to collaborate to answer questions that cross conventional academic boundaries and help build resilience to climate change.

As well as interdisciplinary partnerships, He Kaupapa Hononga is also committed to supporting collaborations between mātauranga Māori / mātauranga Kāi Tahu and Western scientific knowledge. These partnerships are important to develop knowledge and ensure enduring solutions, as well as recognising our collective obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Learn more about He Kaupapa Hononga

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Integrated Catchment Management Theme

Catchments Otago recognises that effective water management cannot be achieved in isolation from equitable and appropriate land management.

Comprising researchers from diverse disciplines, this University of Otago Research Theme explores management strategies considering environmental, social and economic aspects.

To facilitate information sharing and direct collaboration between Governmental Authorities, freshwater catchment communities and Otago University researchers to help guide regional and local land and water management strategies in Otago and Southland. We aim to understand community needs, inventory key resources, undertake projects to ensure efficient, equitable and sustainable resource use, and deliver tools for improved freshwater management in Otago and Southland.

Visit the Catchments Otago website

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LINZ ® Nutrition and Activity Research Unit

The LINZ® Unit facilitates public health research, from inception and design of projects to collection, analysis and reporting of results. The Unit has a number of consultants, including nutrition, medicine and biostatistics.

Visit the LINZ® Unit website

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Marine Science and Aquaculture Research Centre

The Portobello Marine Laboratory is home to a wide range of research projects which make the most of Otago's unique coastal environment. Research topics include marine conservation, ocean physics, marine biology and ecology, and aquaculture. The research vessel RV Polaris II effectively extends the research range of the Portobello Laboratory.

Learn more about the Marine Science facilities

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The National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR)

NCLR and its partners undertake world-leading lifecourse research, with a focus on studies that impact on policy and practice. The Lifecourse is the span of human development from conception to death. The NCLR are involved in a number of longitudinal studies – studies that follow the same groups of people over time. A lifecourse perspective emphasises how our development is shaped by the physical and human environment and highlights the importance of the early years in terms of later health and wellbeing.

Read more about The National Centre for Lifecourse Research

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Otago Energy Research Centre

The Otago Energy Research Centre is an interdisciplinary collaboration exploring sustainable energy generation as well as energy-efficient industrial applications.

Visit the Otago Energy Research Centre

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Otago Centre for Electron Microscopy (OCEM)

The Centre is well equipped for ultrastructural studies. It has a Philips CM 100 transmission electron microscope (TEM) and a Philips 410LS TEM. Both TEMs are fitted with Megaview digital camera systems. The Centre also has a JEOL 6700F field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) and a Cambridge S360 conventional SEM. The FEGSEM is fitted with an Alto high resolution cryostage for working with frozen hydrated samples and an elemental analysis (EDS) system. The Centre has particular expertise in ultrastructural immunocytochemical techniques and both TEM and SEM cryopreparation techniques. The Otago Centre for Confocal Microscopy operates in conjunction with OCEM (contact Andrew McNaughton).

Visit the Otago Centre for Electron Microscopy

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Otago Repository for Core Analysis (ORCA)

ORCA is a research unit and consultancy in the Department of Geology. A unique research facility within Australasia, focussing on the analysis of sediment cores.

There are two analytical instruments that Otago researchers and their collaborators use for the analysis of cores.

Principal users at Otago span across Geology, Geography and Anthopology and Archaeology.

Visit the Otago Repository for Core Analysis

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Product Development Research Centre

The Centre undertakes comprehensive research programmes to improve commercial profitability and assist with product development for the food industry. Researchers' expertise includes product development, food chemistry, encapsulation and controlled release, flavour science, food microbiology, malting and brewing science/technology and lipid technology.

Visit the Product Development Research Centre

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Quantum Science Otago

Quantum Science Otago is a research unit exploring various aspects of quantum physics and its applications in super computing. The research group comprises leading theorists as well as experimentalists, and active collaborations worldwide.

Visit Quantum Science Otago

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Te Koronga: Indigenous Science

Te Koronga's kaupapa is Māori research excellence based on the aspirations of Māori communities underpinned by a Kaupapa Māori ethos.

Te Koronga is comprised of two parts:

  • Graduate research excellence
  • Indigenous Science Research Theme

Visit Te Koronga's website

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