For the Kitmap report, the institutions were each asked to provide a highlight that showcases one of their infrastructures or resources. Each describes an interesting, novel, or significant piece of equipment held by one the institutions, including how it supports their important work, and thus how it benefits Aotearoa.
The variety of equipment in these highlights shows the diversity of research that is carried out by the institutions and that is underpinned by their available research infrastructure.
NIWA - Research Vessel (RV) Tangaroa
At 70 metres in length, RV Tangaroa is Aotearoa’s largest single piece of research infrastructure, and our only ice strengthened deep-water research vessel. Equipped for ocean science, exploration, and marine engineering, Tangaroa is a critical environmental survey and research platform for use throughout the South Pacific, Southern Ocean, and Antarctica. It supports Aotearoa’s effective stewardship over 5.7 million km2 of ocean (20 times our land area).
The research supported by Tangaroa covers a very wide range of disciplines, from marine geology to fisheries stock assessments to atmospheric dynamics. It underpins ocean resource development and management, natural hazard management, and important international research. Examples of the recent use of Tangaroa include establishing a network of buoys (the DART network), to improve the accuracy and detection of tsunami risk to Aotearoa, and a voyage to the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano that erupted in January 2022.
Scion - DiscBot wood quality scanner
The only one of its kind in the world, DiscBot technology was developed and built at Scion to scan tree cross sections and to help assess a range of wood properties affecting the quality of sawn timber and other end products. Xray, ultra-sound, near-infrared light reflection and light transmission technologies are used to measure wood density, wood stiffness, wood chemical composition and wood grain angles. These measures all impact on wood quality.
The DiscBot has been used in both research and commercial activities and allows properties of a tree to be measured (including non-destructively) well before harvest age. This enables confidence that the wood from that tree will meet the needs of the market and gives the grower the option to harvest earlier and start another growth cycle. These insights allow Scion to assess how the environment, silviculture (forest management), tree genetics and the effects of climate variation all affect wood.
ESR - Wastewater-based Epidemiology extraction laboratory
These automated machines are used to both extract and concentrate chemicals and metabolites from wastewater for sensitive testing by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). This technique can detect concentrations of less than 1 part-per-trillion in the original samples (the equivalent of finding one pebble on the whole of state highway 1).
This infrastructure enables estimates of community exposure to or consumption of specific chemicals, such as illicit drugs, alcohol, pesticides, and other markers of human health. This provides an unintrusive, unbiased measure of community health, and when sampled over time can provide useful data on trends in consumption and exposure. For example, these sensitive analyses can quantify the difference between weekday and weekend alcohol consumption, and, by comparing different towns and cities, help dispel inaccurate stereotypes of the residents of certain areas.
GNS - XCAMS
XCAMS is an eXtended Compact Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS), used primarily for radiocarbon dating. XCAMS is the only AMS in Aotearoa and was installed in 2010, manufactured to GNS’s design specifications by National Electrostatic Corporation, one of three manufacturers worldwide.
XCAMS supports many of the research activities in GNS, where it is an integral part in the development of chronologies for past natural hazard events and environmental changes and improving our understanding of the carbon cycle and climate change. Working with the Rafter Radiocarbon Lab, it also provides commercial AMS measurement services.
AgResearch - Portable Accumulation Chambers Trailer
Portable Accumulation Chambers (PAC) are a transformative technology that enables measurement of sheep methane emissions on farm, helping farmers to reduce on-farm emissions. The trailer has 12 chambers and gets transported to sheep breeders all over the country. Sheep are individually placed into the chambers for 1 hour while concentrations of CH4 (methane), CO2 (carbon dioxide) and O2 (oxygen) are measured.
So far over 15,000 sheep have been measured for their methane emissions. The technology is used to give sheep breeders information used for genetic selection purposes. It is anticipated that breeders selecting for lower methane (alongside other traits) can lower their flocks’ emissions by up to 1% per annum.
PFR - Compac™ produce grading equipment
The Compac™ fruit handling and category sizing equipment is used to quickly and reliably measure attributes of fruit. Using optical and/or near-infrared vision and specialised sorting software, it can check for internal defects, check the ripeness of fruit, and sort fruits by shape, size, or colour. PFR use this technology at 4 field locations to assess different production and storage systems, optimise crop management, and select the best fruit breeding lines for further development and evaluation.
The picture shows grading equipment in use with the PiqaBoo™ pear developed by PFR, renowned for its intense red coloration which brightens during fruit storage when picked at the correct fruit maturity.
NeSI - Flexible High-Performance Compute (‘Flexi HPC’) platform
NeSI’s new Flexi HPC Platform enables new styles of access and use of advanced research computing, including increased user interactivity and the ability to provide complete data and compute isolation (to meet security needs or support a multi-tenant infrastructure). This more flexible design than traditional high-performance computing enables a more inclusive and equitable approach to eResearch and HPC infrastructure for researchers across Aotearoa. Current usage includes an all-in-one eResearch environment with AgResearch, advanced graphics processing unit (GPU) capabilities for the Strong AI Lab at the University of Auckland, and hosting of the Aotearoa Genomic Data Repository and eventually the Rakeiora Pathfinder interactive data analysis environment, both of which have Māori Data Sovereignty requirements at their core.
Callaghan Innovation - Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand
The Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand (MSL) is Aotearoa's national metrology institute. MSL has primary responsibility to provide measurement standards in accordance with the International System of Units (SI). Our scientists realise and maintain the most accurate mass, length, time, electrical, temperature, photometric and radiometric measurements for our nation.
MSL’s activity ranges from the fundamental — for example contributing to the determination of the value of Boltzmann's constant — to the industrially applied — for example supporting the electricity industry to quantify energy delivered during charging of electric vehicles. MSL offers calibration services to over 600 commercial testing and calibration laboratories around Aotearoa, supporting them to gain access to overseas markets, meet standards, monitor and control quality, enforce regulations, innovate, and demonstrate performance.
Manaaki Whenua - New Zealand Arthropod Collection (NZAC) - Ko te Aitanga Pepeke o Aotearoa
The NZAC is the largest and geographically most comprehensive invertebrate collection in Aotearoa. It contains 1.6 million “objects'', and an estimated 7 million individual specimens (e.g., one jar or “object” may contain many hundreds or thousands of specimens), primarily from Aotearoa, but also from Pacific Island nations.
The NZAC is used by the primary production sector, researchers in universities, CRIs, and international organisations, as well as through identification services available to the general public. The collection helps guide conservation priorities that lead to outcomes of importance to iwi and the public. Manaaki Whenua works in partnership with the Department of Conservation to periodically update the New Zealand Threat Classification System to enable more accurate estimation of species distribution, rarity, and conservation status.
The NZAC supports biosecurity responses by the Ministry for Primary Industries and provides data to the Environmental Protection Authority for making decisions on the introduction of new organisms, particularly insect biocontrol agents.