19 July 2021

Bioprotection Aotearoa is a new Centre of Research Excellence, built on the whakapapa of the Bio-Protection Research Centre. However, it is not a simple continuation – it is an evolution.

Bioprotection Aotearoa adopts a new approach to bioprotection research in Aotearoa New Zealand. Excellent science is still at its core, but the way of doing that science is more inclusive and holistic. It is guided by a Māori values framework – Taiao – to protect our productive landscapes from pathogens, pests, and weeds.

Our research is structured around three pou, or pillars, which support the whare of our research.

Pou titirangi – piercer of the heavens

The first pou guides our research to DEFINE a healthy, productive ecosystem. It is led by Prof Jason Tylianakis (University of Canterbury) and Dr Julie Deslippe (Victoria University of Wellington).

The three projects in this pou cover integrated measurement of healthy ecosystems, processes that promote productive ecosystems, and a new framework to assess ecosystem health in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pou tokomanawa – the heartbeat of the whare

The second pou guides our research to DEFEND against pathogens, pests, weeds, under a changing climate. It is led by Dr Monica Gerth (Victoria University of Wellington) and Prof Matt Templeton (Plant & Food Research, University of Auckland).

There are four projects in this pou, covering the mechanisms of microbiota-mediated protection against plant pathogens, genetic and genomic approaches to controlling plant pathogens and insect pests, and exploring the molecular basis of pathogen host specificity.

Pou nuku-a-rangi – shifting throughout the heavens

The third pou guides our research to DESIGN ecosystems that are more resilient and resistant. It is led by Dr Steve Wakelin (Scion) and Assoc Prof Amanda Black (Lincoln University).

The three projects in this pou cover creating healthy, disease-resistant and climate-resilient soils, designing future forestry, and creating effective socioeconomic and governance models that lead to resilient ecosystems.

Another research theme extends across all pou and supports them: recloaking Papatūānuku. This is an indigenous socio-ecological restoration model using mānuka and kānuka to promote native biodiversity and restore our whenua.

It aims to define the links between humanity and the natural world, resolve the value of mauri across ecosystems, and show how ecosystem restoration underpins community wellbeing. It is led by Prof Nick Roskruge (Massey University) and Dr Nick Waipara (Plant & Food Research, University of Auckland).

“Bioprotection Aotearoa is doing exactly what a Centre of Research Excellence should do,” says Co-Director Travis Glare. “We are bringing together a national team of experts, to push the boundaries of science and train the next generation of leaders in the field.”

Fellow Co-Director Amanda Black says she is very excited to be leading a CoRE of talented people to carry out the kind of research that Aotearoa New Zealand needs. “I’m hoping we will grow together as a team to achieve our desired outcomes and impacts – the main one being healthy productive landscapes guided by Te Ao Māori values.”