Senior Research Scientist Elaine Moriarty is a member of ESR’s Food, Water and Biowaste group.
With expertise in microorganisms and their growth and survival in the environment, Elaine works with government, community groups, iwi, farmers and other land-based industries on a range of water quality issues.
“Much of our work is focused on helping local water authorities meet their obligations under the national standards for freshwater,” she says.
Elaine and her team have been involved in a joint project with Environment Southland to track faecal sources. Their research includes employing different faecal source tracking tools in Southland to determine the source of elevated E. coli levels in rivers in the region. At the national level, Elaine is leading a multi-agency project to review the current MoH/MfE 2003 Freshwater Guidelines. This encompasses a number of decisions such as which rivers to samples, how often and for what microorganisms to test for.
“What I enjoy about this type of work is the practical application – that what you’re researching today can make a positive difference tomorrow,” she says.
Originally from Ireland, Elaine earned her PhD in Cryptosporidium in Beef Cattle at Slaughter from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. She went on to serve as a Research Associate at Ireland’s National Food Centre before joining ESR in 2005. She is currently undertaking a Post graduate Diploma in Public Health from the University of Otago.
“My research in animal faeces has given me a comprehensive understanding of potentially pathogenic microorganisms such as Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium and the use of bacterial indicators such as E. coli to predict the human health risks from their presence in the environment."