Our Lakes’ Health: Past, Present and Future

Friday 7 February at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Drs Marcus Vandergoes (GNS Science) & Susie Wood (Cawthron Institute) and the Lakes380 team.
Cost – $5 per person.

The health of our lakes is central to New Zealand’s environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing. Yet we cannot robustly assess the water quality or ecological health of our 3,800 (> 1 ha) lakes because over 95% of them are not monitored. Even for the few lakes that are monitored, datasets are short (<20 years), and assessment incomplete, because monitoring started after those lakes had deteriorated. Lake sediments are natural archives that continuously record environmental history, providing measures of current and historical aquatic communities and water quality – equivalent to many centuries of environmental monitoring. The ‘Our lakes’ health; past, present, future (also known as Lakes380)’ is a fiveyear research project which aims to collect water, surface sediment and sediment core samples from 10% of New Zealand lakes. A suite of novel and traditional methods are been used to explore shifts in lake health over the last 1,000 years (pre-human arrival in New Zealand). In this talk we use examples from a subset of lakes which we have already analysed to demonstrate how molecular techniques can be combined with hyperspectral scanning and traditional methods including pollen and pigments to reconstruct biological communities and identify the timing of changes in lake health. The project team has also undertaken a series of Interviews with policy experts, lake scientists and others involved in key actions that influence lake management in New Zealand. These sit alongside a review of the legislation that affects lake management and protection, from 1840 through to today. Two case studies are underway where the Lakes380 team is working closely with the Rangitīkei iwi and iwi in the Wairarapa Moana to explore how we can create an enriched understanding between mātauranga Māori and scientific reconstructions to enhance knowledge on lake health/mauri. We will provide an overview of these pieces of work. For more information, visit: and

Co-programme leaders’: Drs Marcus Vandergoes (GNS Science) & Susie Wood (Cawthron Institute)
Marcus is a paleoecologist whose research focuses on reconstructing historic environmental change through the analysis of lake sediment cores. He works on a variety of projects including exploring how ecosystems and environments have responded to climate change, landscape evolution and human impact. Susie is a freshwater scientist and molecular ecologist. She works on multiple projects related to New Zealand’s aquatic systems, with a focus on lake health, cyanobacterial blooms in lakes and rivers and the application of DNA-based tools for characterising and understanding aquatic ecosystems.

Drs Susie and Marcus

The Lakes380 team
The Lakes380 team includes over 50 researchers and students from eight different New Zealand organisations and international collaborators from Australia, USA, Canada, UK and Europe. Their expertise spans paleo-limnology, lake dynamics, social science, Māori environmental and resource management, molecular techniques, geochronology and climate and environmental change. Please visit to see the profiles of all team members.