Half a Century for Lauder Stargazers

NIWA's atmospheric research station at Lauder

NIWA's research station at Lauder specialises in measuring ozone, UV levels and greenhouse gases. Images: NIWA

Driving along State Highway 85 between Ranfurly and Alexandra, Central Otago's old Pig Route, it would be easy to miss Lauder - if it weren't for a few strange domes and antennae sticking out from the paddocks. NIWA's atmospheric research station was set up in 1961 to study the earth's upper atmosphere and to measure auroras and airglow. Central Otago's clear skies and lack of pollution provided an ideal site for optical observations, initially carried out from a converted GMC truck known as the "dog box", but the station also incorporated a radar system that had been established near Invercargill during the International Geophysical Year in 1957/58.

During the late 1970s, when the first concerns about ozone depletion were raised, Lauder scientists, known locally as the "stargazers" began investigating the lower atmosphere. By the time the ozone hole was discovered in 1985, the team had already contributed to research into the causes and effects of ozone depletion and began regular measurements of nitrous oxide, ozone, UV radiation and trace gases associated with the ozone layer.

In June 1991, the eruption of Mt Pinatubo provided further stimulus for the study of aerosols, cloud, and radiation levels and Lauder was chosen as one of five primary sites worldwide to collect data as part of the international Network for Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC). In this feature, Lauder scientists and staff recall the station's beginnings and transformations during its first half century.

Lauder specialises in measuring ozone, UV radiation and greenhouse gases

Lauder is part of a global network focusing on atmospheric research and it houses and operates several instruments from international research groups, including the Dutch LIDAR (laser detection and ranging) system which monitors ozone and aerosols at night. On the right, electronics expert Paul Johnston is checking a narrow-beam radar antenna, in 1978.


Stephen BrennanStephen Brennan (right) from the University of Otago, Christchurch and Canterbury Health Laboratories, is an international authority on fibrinogen, the molecule which controls blood clotting.

The Molecular Pathology laboratory where he works receives samples from around the world from people who have fibrinogen disorders.

He describes a specific example to Ruth Beran, the case of a Melbourne man who kept presenting at hospital with blood clots. Ironically, while fibrinogen assists in the formation of blood clots, this man had a lack of fibrinogen in his blood.

Using previous work which had sequenced the genes responsible for fibrinogen formation, as well as antisense technology, Stephen and his colleagues solved the mystery of this man's congenital afibrinogenemia.

Sustainable Cities

Single storey houses in a new Hamilton suburb epitomise urban sprawl

Single storey urban sprawl in a new Hamilton suburb (image: A. Ballance)

Bob Evans is the new Professor of Environmental Planning at Waikato University. He's recently moved from the UK and has a newcomer's perspective on what New Zealand is - and isn't - getting right in city design. Alison Ballance joins him in a Hamilton suburb to hear his thoughts on urban sprawl, our over-reliance on cars, and why revitalizing inner cities is so important.

You can find a link to Waikato University's Environmental Reflections Blog here.

Solar Bach

The Meridian First Light solar bach under construction

The Meridian First Light solar bach under construction in Frank Kitts Park (images: S.Prebble/VUW)

Over the last week a small house has sprung up on Wellington's waterfront. The Meridian First Light solar bach has been designed and built by a team of Victoria University architecture students as the sole southern hemisphere entry for the Solar Decathlon competition, being held in Washington DC later this year. With support from the building industry and professionals the solar bach features the latest in energy efficient building methods, such as triple-glazing, extra thick wool insulation, solar hot water heating and solar panels. Alison Ballance visits the solar bach during its construction in Frank Kitts Park to talk with two of the Victoria University students who have been involved in the project from the beginning, Anna Farrow and Nick Officer.