Participatory tools

Plastic bag in ocean © Magnus Larsson, iStock

We are developing web-based tools to enable New Zealanders to interact with and use knowledge generated by our research. 

Project leader: Ross Vennell, Cawthron Institute

Duration: April 2016 – November 2019 
Budget: $580,000 
Status: Ongoing

We are developing interactive web-based applications that will help inform management and decision-making in the marine environment. These tools will potentially be used by regional councils, government policy-makers, iwi and commercial fisheries.

  • Ocean Plastic Simulator - this educational online tool allows users to explore how the ocean and coast are connected by ocean flows. It is based on ocean modelling data. Users can drop virtual plastic into the ocean and discover where it will end up.
  • Another tool will show how management decisions in the Tasman and Golden Bay region may affect the marine environment and influence the scallop fishery. It will help users understand how their management decisions could impact the productivity and quality of the marine environment. The application uses a ‘Bayesian Network’ to connect environmental management strategies with ecosystem properties. This web-based tool is currently testing and development and is expected to be available online in 2019.


LEARNZ virtual field trip 2018

  • Video: The motion of the ocean - Ross Vennell explains what causes ocean currents and why these are important
  • Video: Plastic and the ocean - Heni Unwin and Ross Vennell discuss why plastic can cause such a problem in marine environments
  • Video: Virtual plastic tracker - Heni Unwin introduces an online plastic tracking app people can use to find out where plastic can end up when it is dropped into the ocean

News stories

Seaweek focus on tracking plastic pollution 

Latest news and updates

'Toolkit' for managing cumulative effects

The latest Resource Management Journal is a special issue about our collaborative research into how management of cumulative effects (CE) can be improved. It includes a suite of co-developed recommendations and guidance regarding how to progress work on CE management in Aotearoa.

Tracking the transport of ocean trash

A web-based interactive tool tracks how floating plastic waste moves around New Zealand's coastline. Initially designed as an educational tool for schools, the Ocean Plastic Simulator also has potential for environmental and biosecurity monitoring, and aquaculture.

Blue Economy theme: co-development and funding update

If you're interested in being involved in co-developing our core research projects and/or want notifications about our Innovation Fund then email