The Rimurimu Project 2020
“Imagine the blue-belt of Wellington sustaining a healthy and vibrant Ocean Forest, able to absorb more carbon than trees, improving water quality and providing habitat for thousands of marine creatures.”
These forests have helped our oceans thrive. Now they need our help.
This year Mountains to Sea Wellington launched the Love Rimurimu project. Our long-term vision aims to see our communities developing a much greater understanding of the vital ecosystem services provided by rimurimu (seaweed) and to work together to pilot seaweed forests restoration activities in Wellington’s marine area. A national first, this project has been been enthusiastically supported by world-leading experts and an active group of technical advisors from NIWA, Victoria University, Department of Conservation and the Wellington Underwater Club. The project has developed a wide range of new resources and experiences for schools and communities.
On the first year of the project, 4 schools around the Wellington region participated in the year long enquiry. Over 120 students and their close whānau were directly immersed in the world of seaweed. Even more, our community snorkels had a seaweed focus introducing all participants to the wonders of rimurimu.
We think Wellington is the perfect place to lead innovation and sustainable restoration. Next year we hope to trial restoring areas where these critical habitats have been lost.
Join us (and many others) on this journey!
Seaweed (rimurimu) provides a wealth of ecosystem services and opportunities:
- Enhances biodiversity by maintaining vital food webs and habitat.
- Improving water quality
- Rebuilding marine ecosystems
- Providing innovative & traditional solutions to many modern day challenges including food, textiles, materials and medicines.
- Fighting climate change by absorbing carbon (and a potential tool for long-term carbon sequestration)
Seaweed forest – pictured at the Kapiti Island Marine Reserve by Lorna Doogan
Our community snorkel events this year have had a seaweed focus to them to align with the LOVE RIMURIMU Project. We invited volunteer seaweed experts from NIWA, VUCEL, Wellington Underwater Club and the Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve Trust to support these events. Experts provided participants with the opportunity to engage with seaweed samples, ID guides and other interactive materials, including a virtual reality headset when onshore. These events took place across greater Wellington over the 2019-2020 summer (check out our Events page).
Seaweed forest – pictured at the Kapiti Island Marine Reserve by Lorna Doogan
The Mountains To Sea Wellington team is working with students from across Wellington exploring the diversity of our local seaweeds, their role in the oceans and their connection with climate change.
The education programme has been funded through Curious Minds and is known as The Rimurimu Project. It’s intended that these young people will also be piloting restoration in Wellington with support from scientists, iwi and local government, pending approval and ensuring best practice. They will then go on to share their learning with others in the community.
The schools involved in The Rimurimu Project are Mana College, Scots College, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna and Koraunui School.
This project is widely supported with leading experts from the Department of Conservation, Experiencing Marine Reserves, Victoria University, NIWA, Wellington Underwater club and many others.
Into the (sea)weeds
In the first class session the students were introduced to the ins and outs of Seaweed. A brief lecture on structure and importance of their ecosystems and habitats, and the three different groups of seaweed; Browns, Greens and Reds. Each student received their own personal journal to record their notes, drawings and activities in. The MTSW team also brought a couple different types of seaweed for the students to begin familiarising themselves with.
Ngā Mokopuna meets with experts
Students from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna were incredibly lucky to have seven seaweed experts come and present to them in their first class session. These seven fantastic experts shared an amazing wealth of knowledge with the students, from history and uses, to even sharing some pickled Neptunes Necklace on cheese and crackers.
Beneath the waves
The Students identified samples of seaweed on land before exploring their local Taputeranga Marine Reserve. Diving beneath the waves they were able to explore the amazing habitats that the seaweed forest creates. During the field trips, the students went out with quadrants and transects to observe the biodiversity of sea bed. They could quantify the different amount of organisms in the habitat in order to understand how well it was doing. They compared the observations and data between a Marine Reserve and open areas to see how well an ecosystem survives without human influence.
The use of newly developed classroom experiments allowed students to observe seaweed producing oxygen, and to measure seaweeds ability to absorb CO2 from water. This lead to a great discussion around where seaweed sits in the food-web and all of the amazing things it does to support its local ecosystems. These experiences and discussions have increased understanding of the vital ecosystem services provided by seaweed and will provide a strong knowledge base for Term Two.
In term two we dived even deeper into the beautiful world of seaweed. After a great introduction to the programme in term one, but in wake of the pandemic circumstances and lockdown coming into effect, MTSW moved to distance learning. A virtual based curriculum for teachers was created to be used on a new platform called MakeRipples. Through this platform teachers could access resources to support their own distance learning. Term 2 focused on the human impacts affecting the health of seaweed around the Wellington coastlines. Content was delivered to schools and coordinators engaged with students through zoom meetings with collaboration from seaweed experts around Aotearoa. These experts shared their research and experiences working with seaweed and looking at how to protect at risk species from impacts such as sedimentation, pollution, overfishing, global warming and ocean acidification.
Uses for rimurimu
Term three saw us jump back into the classroom and resume activities face to face with students. The programme now shifted its focus onto the practical uses of seaweed, both modern and traditional. Students participated in workshops to create products out of rimurimu. These seaweed based products included bioplastics, fertilisers, cosmetics and of course, some super yummy kai recipes. Throughout the workshops, we discovered the incredible properties certain seaweeds possess and the chemical compounds contained within, to allow for the creation of such a wide variety of items.
To conclude the Love Rimurimu programme, students were tasked to take action and share the knowledge they had acquired with the wider community. Some groups decided that for their action they would sample and research the pollution affecting the rimurimu along their local beach. The Mana College students adopted Titahi Bay as a new Litter Intelligence Project site to periodically clean and audit all rubbish found in a set transect area.
Community engagement from other schools came through a wide array of events. Whānau, friends and the general public were invited to gatherings and celebrations at participating schools where they could get immers themselves in the wonders of seaweed. This time the students acted as seaweed experts. They showcased all that they had learnt through games, workshops, science and kai.
What comes next?
We want to see our marine environment thrive. To achieve this outcome active restoration and management in the marine environment is needed.
OUR VISION: “Wellington harbour and the blue belt has a flourishing ocean forest, cared for by our local communities. Our seaweed forests are valued for their beauty and ecosystem services – absorbing carbon, steadily improving water quality and as a home to an increasing abundance of marine life”