Research updates and news

Read the latest research updates and news from the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment.

Research updates

Emily Douglas | Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on a Hilltops to oceans project for the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment
Postdoctoral research fellow, Emily Douglas.

Hilltop to Oceans: exploring the role of estuaries in processing nitrogen at the land-sea interface

Emily Douglas, a postdoctoral research fellow working out of the University of Waikato in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Science, is embarking on one of the latest projects for the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment.

Emily will be investigating how estuary habitats store and process nitrogen, under the guidance of Professor Conrad Pilditch (School of Science, University of Waikato) and Associate Professor Luitgard Schwendenmann (School of Environment, University of Auckland).

“The rationale for this project comes from an urgent need to advance the knowledge and awareness of estuary ecosystems and the important part they play in storing, processing and especially removing (by denitrification) excess land-derived nitrogen,” Emily explains.

“We will use an interdisciplinary approach to determine the linkages between stressors (excess nutrients, organic matter and muddy sediments), and impacts on biogeochemical processes (especially denitrification) in receiving estuary habitats."

She will be seeking answers to the following questions:

  1. Are there denitrification hotpots in estuaries, and are these associated with particular habitats?
  2. What environmental factors control denitrification in estuarine systems?

Emily will be conducting her research in the Mahurangi Harbour and other estuaries in northern New Zealand where measurements will be made in key habitats such as intertidal flats, seagrass beds, subtidal channels, and mangrove fringes.

This project follows on from Emily's PhD research which showed that maintaining biodiversity of soft sediment habitats as well as reducing the ‘muddying’ of estuaries will be important for ecosystem resilience to future nutrient enrichment stress.

Associated information



2017 Research projects

2017 marks the inaugural funding round for the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment.  The following projects have been funded:

  1. Plastic pollution and solutions
    Primary investigators: Kevin Simon, Gavin Lear
  2. Hilltop to Oceans: processes of change and mitigating impacts
    Primary investigators: Emily Douglas & Luitgard Schwendenmann, Caitlin Blain, Jenny Hillman
  3. Building public understandings of ecosystems
    Primary investigator: Maria Armoudian

Funding was also awarded to the following three seed projects:

  1. Advanced sensor technology for tracking woody debris
    Primary investigator: Heide Friedrich
  2. Developing metagenomics for pathogen surveillance in a threatened endemic bird
    Primary investigator: Alexander Knight
  3. Tackling global warming: methane emission from ruminant animals
    Primary investigator: Ivanhoe Leung


Inaugural funding for environmental research | 26 October 2017

Three University of Auckland-based environmental research projects have been awarded funding of more than $1 million from the new George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment. Read more and see details about the funded projects below.

Partnership with Foundation North | 5 September 2017

An important partnership between The University of Auckland’s George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment and Foundation North was sealed in July. Read more.