30 November 2021

Category: PhD

Location: Lincoln University

Supervisors: Amanda Black, Leo Condron, Tom Maxwell – Lincoln University  Maureen O’Callaghan – AgResearch David Perenara-O’Connell – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

Deadline: 17 December 2021

Project description:
Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga access to, and ability to provide, mahika kai is essential to their cultural identity. This project will enhance the mauri of Kaitōrete spit/Kā Poupou a Te Rakihouia by assessing different methods to increase the resilience and resistance of soils to carbon loss, biodiversity loss and pathogen survival and spread. Soil organic matter is a key factor controlling ecosystem processes and sustainability. Organic matter is the fundamental energy supply to soil microorganisms, and drives biogeochemical cycling of other elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and iron. Provision of adequate organic matter to soil microbiota increases the ecosystem stability when exposed to stress, and provides energy to resist invasion of pests and diseases (biological feedback / pathogen suppression). In addition, soil organic matter improves key soil physicochemical properties such as water holding capacity, aeration, aggregate formation and stability. As such, the loss of carbon has serious consequences, especially with respect to the long-term sustainability of soil resources and soil health.

Research aim:
The overall aim is to inform land management practices, supported by Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga, so that mana whenua can farm their coastal and sensitive whenua in a culturally and ecologically supportive way.This will be achieved through a series of research goals:

  1. Understand and describe the carbon profile of the soils on Kaitōrete spit using transect methods.
  2. Using metagenomics of microbial communities and aligning with the whakapapa/mātauraka Māori of Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga build a profile of soils and the ecological networks that sustain the mauri of Kaitōrete spit.
  3. In areas identified as marginal for supporting plant/crop productivity, design a series of experiments that investigate the stability of soil carbon through the addition of amendments such as green manure crops and/or biochar.

This project feeds into a broader research paradigm of Māori knowledge systems (mātauraka/nga ahuataka Māori) and the application of these systems in building and sustaining the resilience of land-based production systems, in relation to soil classifications and land use cover/type. Similar to the concept of regenerative/restorative agriculture, it is based on the need to increase carbon in soil. Kaitōrete spit is a relatively low soil carbon, marginal coastal environment that is under mixed land use, including mixed management and ownership. Thus, it offers an ideal model system to examine how we could increase the resilience of the soil ecosystem to ensure that it has ongoing life-supporting capacity in the face of increased biological invasions and climate change. Moreover, it will be examined within a Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga framework.

Prerequisites and Application Process:

We are ideally looking for a Māori or Pasifika student with a background in the biological or physical sciences and an interest in soils. An openness to working with indigenous communities that are working towards food sovereignty in light of changing global trends in food security is essential.

Please email applications to [email protected] before 17th December, 2021.