Cawthron Institute is working with businesses, government, industry, environmental groups and mana whenua to launch a national seagrass restoration research programme to support biodiversity, improve water quality and mitigate climate change.

We are leading a multi-year research Programme called ‘Restore the Meadows’ to develop seagrass restoration techniques for Aotearoa New Zealand. A key focus is to develop a blueprint on seed-based techniques for seagrass restoration that will enable larger-scale restoration of seagrass meadows across the country.

This Programme will build off previous work to develop seed-based techniques including when and where to find seagrass flowers and how to collect, process, store, and germinate seeds. We are also trialling other techniques such as transplanting. The knowledge produced will be key for informing future restoration efforts.

Funders: Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund, OneFortyOne Limited, Port Nelson, Friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay, the Simplicity Foundation, the University of Waikato, and the Catalyst Fund.

Previous funding: Nelson City Council, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and Cawthron Institute Trust Board.

Collaborators: University of Waikato (Joanne Ellis, Hazel Needham), Deakin University (Craig Sherman), Central Queensland University (Emma Jackson) and University of Auckland (Conrad Pilditch).

We also want to thank mana whenua for supporting our research.


Seagrass is a marine plant with long green leaves and a root structure, known as rhizomes, that form extensive underground networks to withstand tidal currents. It grows in coastal sandflats in estuaries and harbours, and further out to sea in underwater meadows.

Seagrass meadows are important coastal ecosystems with immense ecological and economic value. They are biological hotspots – helping to improve water quality, mitigate climate change, and support food security including fisheries. However, they are declining due to human activities. In Aotearoa, there is only one seagrass species, Zostera muelleri, that recently has been demonstrated to commonly flower and produce seeds.


We are eager to partner with other organisations who would like to contribute funding support towards this innovative restoration project. Please contact us for more information about sponsorship/investment opportunities.

Sign up for our Restore the Meadows newsletter by clicking the ‘sign up’ button below. In our quarterly updates, we will share how we are progressing in our research and developing new techniques for seagrass restoration in Aotearoa.


Seagrass flowers with protruding stigma (used to catch pollen for fertilisation). To learn more about seed-based seagrass restoration, see “A blueprint for seed-based seagrass restoration in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Representatives of the project’s partner organisations at Nelson Haven in July 2022. From left: Allanagh Rivers – General Manager of Infrastructure and Environment at Port Nelson, Kylie Reeves – Communications Manager at OneFortyOne Ltd, Brent Guild – Executive General Manager at OneFortyOne Ltd, Dana Clark – Team Leader Restoration Ecology at Cawthron Institute, Hugh Morrison – Chief Executive Officer at Port Nelson, and Volker Kuntzsch – Chief Executive Officer at Cawthron Institute.

Members of the Restore the Meadows Project Team collect seed in Nelson Haven.

Cawthron Summer scholarship recipients Demi Fern and Irisa Hudson surveying seagrass as part of their summer project. Their work is published under the reports section below titled “Research to inform seed-based seagrass restoration in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Seagrass flower collection at Waimea Inlet as part of a community engagement day in collaboration with Westpac NZ.

Key Researchers

Dana Clark

Dana Clark
Restoration Ecology Team Leader

Dana Clark

Anna Berthelsen
Marine Scientist, Coastal Ecology

Dana Clark

Dan Crossett
Marine Ecologist

Maureen Ho
Marine Ecologist

Profile image coming soon

Al Alder
Marine Ecologist

Profile image coming soon

Ellie Brettle
PhD Student