Elaine Moriarty

Dr Elaine Moriarty is a Senior Research Scientist, 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 (external link) to determine the human health risk of contact with recreational water in the region. Their research includes employing different faecal source tracking tools in Southland to determine the source of elevated E. coli levels polluting waterways in the region. At the national level, Elaine is leading a multi-agency project to review the current Ministry of Health/Ministry for the Environment 2003 Freshwater Guidelines. This encompasses a number of decisions such as which rivers to samples, how often and for what microorganisms to test for.

Elaine and her team recently secured Vision Mātauranga funding in collaboration with Ngāi Tahu (external link) .  The aim of this project is to develop an environmental risk assessment framework which can be used to determine if mahinga kai at specific sites is safe for human consumption. This framework will build on current water quality data collected by local councils as part of their routine monitoring programmes. It will integrate existing food safety standards for commercial food products, as well as local historical and cultural knowledge held by rūnanga/hapū/whānau. A knowledge gap currently exists around the food safety of mahinga kai and environmental factors which influence it. This research will assist in closing this knowledge gap to ensure that the gatherers can make informed decisions.

Elaine is the key contact within the Environmental Science group between Local Authorities and the scientists at ESR.  “My role is to connect clients with the most appropriate scientist at ESR and to ensure our science is relevant to the needs of our clients. I enjoy speaking with Councils and working out solutions to issues they are facing.” 

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.

Rapaki Jetty

Water sampling at Rapaki Jetty.

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