Two University of Waikato students have each been awarded $5000 to research coastal waters in the Bay of Plenty.

Megan Ranapia and Georgina Flowers are the latest recipients of BayTrust Bruce Cronin Scholarships which are administered by Universities New Zealand and awarded to postgraduate students doing research in maths, sciences or information technology.

The scholarships are geared towards future improvement of the Bay of Plenty region and recipients either study, come from, or have whakapapa in the region.

Ranapia is studying for her Master of Science degree and her research involves creating a habitat sustainability map for green-lipped mussel translocation in Ōhiwa Harbour.


"Green-lipped mussels were once prolific in New Zealand's coastal waters and Ōhiwa has one of the last remnant soft-bottom mussel habitats," she said.

"They provide important ecological services, increase fish production and are considered an important resource to some iwi and hapu."

In response to their decline, the Ōhiwa Harbour Implementation Forum wants to restore mussels back to the harbour.

"My studies will provide an analytical tool the forum can use to decide the best possible location for mussel survival and recruitment," Ranapia said.

Her whakapapa is tied to Whakatāne and Motiti Island.

Georgina Flowers. Photo / Supplied
Georgina Flowers. Photo / Supplied

"My thesis will also collaborate both western science and matauranga Māori and this inclusive approach will hopefully increase the opportunity for success, and it could also imply further collaborative work for future shellfish management and research."

PhD student Flowers is investigating the environmental factors driving benthic primary production and sediment nutrient cycling in shallow water ecosystems.

"This will be of great value for the Bay of Plenty. These ecosystem processes undertaken in shallow water environments are highly valuable and are providing numerous services to the Bay of Plenty coastal areas," she said.


Flower's research will focus on 11 sites in the region's largest estuary, Tauranga Harbour.

"I'll investigate how the increasing stressors of turbidity and nutrient concentrations to our marine environments may be influencing these shallow water ecosystem services."

She'll be using chambers that will incubate the sediment and overlying water column from which the changes in oxygen and nutrient (eg, ammonium nitrate) concentrations will be assessed.

"The extent of my research will demonstrate the functional relationship between light intensity, primary production and sediment nutrient fluxes in intertidal areas."

Flowers said this information would help to underpin water quality models as well as whole-system nutrient budgets, information that was currently required to assist in the management and conservation of these environments.

Bruce Cronin was the first manager of BayTrust serving from 1996 to 2014 and both Ranapia and Flowers were chuffed to have won the scholarship bearing his name.

They said they were not surprised the two scholarships were awarded to Waikato University students because the university had long had an academic team focused on coastal research and because a large portion of the Bay of Plenty region was built around estuarine and coastal areas the conservation of the marine ecosystems in this region is vital.