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Toi Ohomai Student Helps With Tauranga's Sea Pod Revolution

Published: Thu 11 Jul 2024 03:49 PM
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology student, Abby McDonald, monitoring the living seawall pods for tidal plants and marine animal life (Photo/Supplied)
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology student, Abby McDonald, is at the forefront of a pioneering initiative to transform marine conservation in Tauranga’s harbour.
Tauranga City Council recently installed 100 sea pods as part of a living seawall on the Tauranga Waterfront in the city centre, the first of their kind in New Zealand. The pods are uniquely designed to attract tidal plants and marine animal life.
Abby will work with scientists from Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the University of Waikato.
Abby's journey into the world of marine conservation began in 2020 when she went scuba diving with her dad.
“There is so much more life in the ocean than I originally thought,” she says.
“We saw lots of different sea life including schools or individual fish, stingray, crayfish, octopus, kina, and shellfish. There were times when we were able to hand feed the fish kina, which is still a highlight as we got to interact with them and see how their behaviour changed as they grew more confident.”
Inspired by tales of underwater exploration and coral reef studies, Abby's path led her to Toi Ohomai, where she is in her second year of studies towards a Diploma in Environmental Management.
As Abby delved deeper into her studies, her passion for protecting our oceans swelled.
“I have become more aware of the issues facing the ocean environment since beginning my studies,” she says.
“My dad and I have done scenic dives in marine reserves... We noticed the marine biodiversity is a lot higher there compared to some non-marine reserve areas. There is an increase in the organisms at the base of the food chain like your seaweed which supports the organisms further up the food chain.”
“I came to realise there are some marine areas (in New Zealand) that are in poor condition with the effects of kina barren (over population of urchins), and therefore they have a lower biodiversity.”
Now, she has an opportunity to study how effective the sea pods are.
“It will be very interesting to see whether the sea pods have worked and if we start to see an increase in species diversity. Species diversity is particularly important as it maintains the balance and sustainability of an ecosystem.”
With monthly visits to monitor the progress of the sea pods, Abby’s work will help to identify species, count critters, and keep an eye on the growth of algae, the lifeblood of the marine ecosystem.
Tauranga City Council, Senior Programme Manager, Malcolm Smith says the sea pods are a step towards improving the health and quality of the water within the harbour.
“Our hope is that the sea pods thrive and as a result, support a healthy ecosystem. As well as the environmental benefits of having diverse species thriving in this space, it will also create a magical underwater world for the public to connect with.”
The living seawall is one of the projects that will help transform Tauranga’s Waterfront. Several key projects are set for completion by summer, such as the new Waterfront playground, green reserve and shared pathway.

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