Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre

Perched on the clifftop adjacent to Goat Island is the University of Auckland’s, Leigh Marine Laboratory. ‘The Lab’, as it is locally known, has been a feature of the area since the mid 1960s and has undergone several iterations in its 50 plus years of existence. The establishment of New Zealand’s first, marine reserve occurred around a decade later and this five kilometre of protected coast continues to be a focal area of study for academic researchers and students alike. A $10,000 upgrade of the laboratory completed in 2011, created a more collaborative and integrated workspace for students and staff, along with the establishment of the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre, which is open to the public.  

The main science building provides offices, breakout meeting spaces, an open-plan office for graduate students and a range of, state-of-the-art, laboratories. Student accommodation and workshops were also expanded in the upgrade. Over 19 full-time academic and technical staff, plus around 25 PhD and MSc students base themselves at the laboratory, leading to a vibrant workplace with a constant sharing of ideas. Academic staff working for the Institute of Marine Science carry out a diverse range of research at local, national and international levels. They also coordinate student field-courses at Leigh and teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University's main Auckland City campus. Specialist technicians provide critical support to research projects, as well as the design and fabrication of experimental equipment, instruments and sensors, boating and diving support, management and maintenance of the high-tech seawater systems including biochemical analyses.

The laboratory is set up with fully equipped workshops, teaching facilities, seminar rooms and lab spaces and has a fleet of outboard boats (under six metres) used for diving and accessing research sites along the local coast. A 15-metre research vessel ‘Hawere’, is used to facilitate research at many of the offshore islands within the Hauraki Gulf and provides the capability to fill dive tanks, deploy a range of instruments and comfortably accommodate crew and scientists during overnight trips further offshore. 

Research being undertaken at the laboratory, covers a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines and areas of interest, much of it funded through donor support. Topics range from monitoring the size and abundance of species within the reserve, relative to fished areas outside, evaluating the health of the local estuaries, quantifying plastic pollution, through to marine habitat restoration and monitoring climate change. Much of the research is directed towards providing a better understanding of the processes and pressures influencing and impacting on the marine environment that can inform management-decisions. This is especially important within the context of an ever-expanding Auckland city and associated concerns around the decreasing environmental state of the wider Hauraki Gulf.  

The Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre opened its doors in October 2011. The centre manages live exhibits, information displays and communicates research findings through a range of interactive approaches. It showcases processes and interactions within the ocean and the variety of marine research being undertaken at The University of Auckland includes hands-on tuition for school groups that interfaces with the NCEA curriculum. The centre will be working closely with Leigh School over the 2018/2019 summer on a collaborative project with AUT, NIWA and Goat Island Dive and Snorkel that will seek to monitor salp populations in Goat Island Bay.  All staff working at the centre are either qualified marine scientists or students undertaking MSc or PhD research, ensuring visitors have the opportunity to engage with active scientists. The centre is open on weekends, public holidays and daily over the school holidays and from 1 December through to 30 April. 

Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre

UoA Institute of Marine Science

Leigh Marine Laboratory www.marine.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-institute/leigh-marine-laboratory.html

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