ESR's world-class knowledge, research and laboratory services help our partners and clients solve complex problems and protect people in New Zealand and around the world. Read these case studies to find out how.


Research and Intelligence

Research case studies
Ngā rangahau mātai take

Find out more about the work we do through the case studies below. Filter by science discipline for more specific results.

Bronwyn sampling OWMS

On-site wastewater management systems and groundwater quality

Up to 20% of households in parts of Aotearoa New Zealand are reliant on on-site wastewater management systems. These systems can affect groundwater and the drinking water system that relies upon it. 

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Burnham DNA Tracer Experiment Liping Pang 20221116

Protecting our freshwaters from waterborne diseases

Contaminated freshwater can harbour many waterborne pathogens that cause diseases in humans. By mimicking the properties of these pathogens, surrogates can be used to predict water contamination risks and help design improved water treatment systems and water-supply bore protections to…

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drinking tap water

Microbial Risk Assessment of land use on drinking water supplies

An effective approach to assessing the risks posed by land use activities in close proximity to protected drinking water zones is needed to assist councils in making informed consent decisions.

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Irrigator Twizel web

Tracking pollution sources in groundwater tracers

Emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) and environmental DNA (eDNA) are innovative tools that can be used to identify sources of pollution in groundwater.

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Antibiotic gel plate2

Managing the risk of emerging organic contaminants

Emerging Organic Contaminants (EOCs) are natural or manufactured chemicals in household and personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and agrichemicals; their use and discharge is largely unregulated.

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Optimising the process for microplastic analysis

Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.

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Healthy Tonga

Providing public and environmental health support to the tourism industry in Tonga

ESR works in partnership with the Tongan Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour and the Tongan Ministry of Health to provide public and environmental health support to the tourism industry in Tonga. 

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Virus removal2

Virus removal in wastewater

The Virus Removal in Wastewater project is an ESR-led research group that aims to advance knowledge of the efficiency and relative importance of processes involved in virus removal in natural wastewater systems such as oxidation ponds.

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Brent sampling river drinking water

Water science learning resources

The educational outreach programme managed by the University of Waikato - The Science Learning Hub - brought together ESR scientists to talk about a range of topics related to water quality.

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Facilitating service redesign

ESR worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Capital and Coast DHB to redevelop the model of care for those involved in Opioid Substitution Treatments (OST).

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the glenn inquiry

Measuring the effectiveness of whole-of-system response to prevent family violence

Preventing family violence – one of society’s most complex social issues.

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Antibiotic sensitvity and resistance

Combating antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is the broader term for resistance in different types of microorganisms (eg, bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi). It encompasses resistance to antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal drugs.

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About the DNA databank

In 1995, a joint project involving the New Zealand Police and ESR created the National DNA Profile Databank.


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gloved hand bullet

Becoming a forensic scientist

Forensic scientists apply scientific knowledge and skills to investigate crime and help police find or eliminate crime suspects.

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JN luminol2

Forensic NZ documentary series

ESR, along with the NZ Police, participated in the 2017 five-part documentary series Forensics NZ. The series explored real crimes in New Zealand and how forensic science assisted Police with their investigations.

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Forensic Awareness Training to Conflict Armament Research CAR London by Kurt McManus 6

Forensic awareness training

The expertise of ESR's forensic scientists and technicians can be applied to numerous fields.

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3D marae visualisation

Preserving Māori cultural assets

ESR partnered with Matatā based iwi Ngāti Rangitihi and 3D visualisation experts Blue Cube Consulting to co-develop a virtual marae visualisation platform named Te Rererunga (the ‘fly over’).

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lump sugar

Te Mate Huka - Diabetes study

Reducing health inequalities and achieving health equity for Māori will depend on a better understanding of the science of implementation.

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Mussels SNZS

Safe New Zealand Seafood programme

ESR is contributing our science expertise to this seven year research programme led by the Cawthron Institute and funded by the Ministry of Business, Science and Innovation (MBIE).

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Investigating the causes of diarrhoeal illness

Every year 2.4 billion cases of diarrhoeal illness occur globally with 4.6 million cases in New Zealand.

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Rapaki Jetty 360px

Improving understanding of food safety risks associated with mahinga kai

ESR is developing an environmental risk assessment framework that can be used to determine if mahinga kai (wild food) at specific sites is safe for human consumption.

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New Zealand Total Diet Study

ESR contributes to the New Zealand Total Diet Study, which is undertaken approximately every five years by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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Vaccination epidemic

Evolution of an epidemic

ESR is using genome sequencing to analyse and understand a large-scale meningococci epidemic based on New Zealand's prolonged epidemic experienced between 1991 and 2008.

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Genomics Aotearoa

ESR is a partner in Genomics Aotearoa, a science platform supporting advanced genomics research.


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Virus hunters Richard Hall HEALTH

ESR’s Virus Hunters

They are science’s answer to a squad of crack cold case detectives — a team of researchers whose mission is to identify mystery diseases which have been placed in the too-hard basket.

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Andrew Chappell Drugs in waste water testing

Drugs in wastewater

Knowing where and when drugs are most commonly used is a valuable insight for Police and other agencies to inform and target the activity.

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Pacific water Bronwyn in Kiribati

WASH in schools

ESR is a partner with UNICEF New Zealand to deliver a range of programmes that help improve WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) practices in the Pacific.

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Making services reachable

Making services reachable

How do we enable families/whānau to succeed to ensure that all New Zealand children fulfil their potential? What are the critical causal influences on positive outcomes for family/whānau, and are there connections between them? How do these critical influences differ for ‘family’…

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Customs officer and ESR at CESL

New Zealand Customs ESR Screening Laboratory

Every day thousands of people, packages and large amounts of cargo arrive at the New Zealand border and enter the country.

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Genomics DNA

Next generation DNA

As profiling of DNA, and its sister compound RNA, continues to evolve, ESR is at the forefront of research and development in this area with a thriving research programme and product development.

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pills copy

Border to Grave

New psychoactive substances (also known as ‘synthetic cannabis’, ‘party pills’ and ‘legal highs’) are proliferating internationally at an unprecedented rate.

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Evidence based policing centre opening

Evidence based policing

ESR, New Zealand Police and the University of Waikato have joined forces to establish a world-class research centre to help better inform Police in their work to prevent crime and protect the public.

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He Wai Ora Mahere Matai I Nga Waikaukau cropped

Swimming and drinking water resources created by ESR Māori scientist and Mahia tamariki

ESR Māori Impact Scientist Georgia Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto, Pare Hauraki and Ngāti Pu) has inspired pupils from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Perehuia in Mahia about the value of science, by working with them to develop books conveying important…

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STEM Taupulega

Raising Pasifika student achievement in science

ESR is contributing to an New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) advisory group to help lift Pasifika student achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

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Coral beach sand Bikenibeu Bronwyn Humphries water

The role of natural coral sand in water quality

Can natural coral sand be used to overcome some of the wastewater and drinking water challenges in the Pacific islands?

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Synthetic cannabis cover

The evolution of synthetic cannabinoids

The evolution of synthetic cannabinoids over the last five years has been rapidly changing. Synthetic cannabinoids such as AMB-FUBINACA, not seen in New Zealand prior to 2016, is now the most prevalent synthetic cannabinoid in the country.

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Understanding the Groundwater Ecosystem

By understanding the role of key organisms in aquifer ecosystems, scientists from ESR and Auckland University are developing a groundwater health index to help manage and protect this taonga. 

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vape liquid

Up in steam: ESR scientists reveal what's really in vape liquid

A groundbreaking vaping study indicates harmful bacteria, substances and chemicals are lurking in some vape products and are not being accurately reported on packaging.

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20210810 Drilling at Silverstream 51 1

Uncovering hidden water systems

Groundwater modelling can help us understand and manage our aquifers.

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Denitrification Wall 28 1

Innovative techniques for removing nitrate from groundwater

Woodchip can help reduce nitrate in water systems, through building woodchip bioreactors and through installation of woodchip permeable ‘walls’ buried into groundwater. 

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ARS Campylobacter jejuni

The Source Attribution of Campylobacteriosis in New Zealand Study (SACNZS)

The Source Assigned Campylobacteriosis in New Zealand Study (SACNZS) was designed to investiage how New Zealanders become infected with the Campylobacter bacterium. 

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