The research domains we work in…

Landcare Research’s core science capabilities are all about sustainable development and management of our land-based natural resources and biodiversity.

Informatics, a field of study that focuses on the use of technology for improving access to and utilisation of information, plays an important and growing role in the research that Landcare Research undertakes and the services it provides.

The Informatics team brings ideas and expertise from the fields of environmental informatics (also called eco-informatics), biodiversity informatics, bioinformatics, geoinformatics and geomatics as well as general informatics to the following research domains of interest to Landcare Research.

Biodiversity and conservation

Spatial modelling and well-constructed databases sit behind research to understand the distribution of ecosystems and the response of ecosystems to past and present global changes. Biodiversity and conservation research also encompasses specialist services including ecological genetics, environmental restoration and biosystematics: the discovery, identification, description (including morphology, diversity, distributions, and life histories), naming, and classification of life forms.


Potential-mosquito-risk areas (blue) in the Hawke’s Bay

Pests and weeds

New Zealand is under attack from introduced animals and plants that have become pests, and more arrive each year. The Informatics team aids the fight against pests by creating, maintaining, and improving online information for use by both scientific specialists and the general public. Informatics staff, working with other Landcare Research scientists, also develop spatial models to improve our knowledge of the numbers and distributions of pest species, especially possums.

Land use

Dairy farm on the Canterbury Plains

Knowledge of land cover and land use is needed for many mapping and monitoring applications. A combination of ground-truth information and satellite remote sensing imagery is used in a wide variety of applications: to report New Zealand’s carbon stocks, to quantify areas of fallow ground over winter, to map the percentages of our cities that are impervious (built-on) surfaces and, as Ecosat to classify our land cover into a system of useful categories.


Modern soil mapping still depends upon fieldwork, which involves digging soil pits, but extrapolating between these site investigations is now driven by information sciences. Spatial models of satellite-derived terrain and landscape plus new and historical soil mapping combine with efficient ways to ‘crunch’ lots of data to form S-Map .

Biological databases and biodiversity information standards

Tūī bird

The availability of so much online information about flora and fauna is only possible because the Informatics team design, develop and maintain intelligent databases so that all biodiversity-related research data generated within Landcare Research is managed to national and international standards and is discoverable and accessible. Landcare Research Informatics specialists have created databases and tools on insects, plants, fungi, micro-organisms, plants, animals, traditional use of plants, and observational databases such as the National Vegetation Survey Databank (NVS) for vegetation Services and Collections. Our work in this area facilitates interdisciplinary nationally/internationally collaborative biodiversity and environmental research, and contributes to international best-practice for biodiversity management.

Groundwater and aquifers

Spatial modelling based on field data – land use changes, well measurements, stream flows, ground permeability, etc. – is used to make sense of how human activities are affecting groundwater and aquifers. Staff from the Informatics team contribute to IRAP – Integrated Research for Aquifer Protection. We are also involved with irrigation research, sustainable urban design, and integrated catchment management.

Environmental domains

Illustration of projecting data from environmental space to geographic space

Environmental domains are a spatial classification system that aids resource management: identifying priority areas for protection, environmental monitoring, assessing ecological risks associated with human activities. They are a way of ordering our environment to highlight areas of similarity independent of size and place. Domains are based on information derived from mapping and/or modelling physiological drivers of biological patterns – landforms, climate, and soils. For example, LENZ is the environmental domains system for terrestrial New Zealand.

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