Waituna Lagoon – Part 2: Lake Flipping

Marc Schallenberg at Tomahawk lagoon which is red from an algae bloom

Marc Schallenberg at Tomahawk Lagoon on Dunedin's South Coast. The water is red from a phytoplankton bloom. This lagoon was the first one in New Zealand where regular 'flipping' events were recognised (images: A. Ballance)

Last week we began a 3-part series on water quality in Southland’s Waituna lagoon with a programme about the ecology of this unique coastal lagoon, which is part of the Awarua-Waituna wetland complex, and was the first wetland site in the world to be recognized under the Ramsar Convention.

This week the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released a report on ‘Water Quality in New Zealand: understanding the science’ which identified pathogens, sediment and nutrients as the major freshwater pollutants of concern. In relation to Waituna lagoon the report noted: ‘A call for more science to be done can sometimes be a way of delaying difficult decisions. There is no need for more science to establish the link between the change in land use that has taken place in Southland’s Waituna catchment and the dire state of the Waituna Lagoon. There is simply no other explanation.’ This statement generated several responses in the Southland Times, both in an editorial and comments from Guy Salmon of Ecologic.

In part 2 of our own exploration into water quality and water science, Alison Ballance meets University of Otago limnologist Marc Schallenberg at Dunedin’s Tomahawk Lagoon to find out about ‘flipping’ lakes, as there are fears Waituna Lagoon is about to ‘flip’.

Tracking Happiness

Tamlin Conner, a psychologist at the University of Otago, is interested in emotional and physical well-being, but she is taking a new approach to measuring happiness. Instead of tracking emotional states through surveys, she uses mobile phones and the internet to measure people’s experiences in real-time and in the context of daily life. This approach allows her to explore psychological, cognitive, and genetic factors that influence people’s real-time emotional responses, as well as the interplay between emotional and physical health.

One of her team’s recent studies, published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, tracked university students for three weeks, focusing on their drinking patterns and how low-risk, heavy or extreme levels of alcohol consumption matched the students’ self-reported physical, cognitive and emotional functioning the day after a drinking episode. Binge drinking is a public health issue and the consequences of heavy alcohol consumption are well studied. However, the Otago study is one of few to look at the effect of alcohol on students’ next-day functioning, rather than on acute consequences while drinking (such as accidents) or on the longer term effects of alcohol abuse.

In this interview, Tamlin Conner explains the results of this recent study as well as her ongoing research of general well-being.