Research on Show

Today I presented at the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) congress in Geneva in the session How can botanic gardens use their scientific expertise to help solve the “big issues”?

I used our approach to water sensitive design at Auckland Botanic Gardens and how this demonstrates the role of botanic gardens translating research into practice in a public setting.  I chose the example of storm water as a major environmental problem in Auckland.  This is accessible research ‘on show’ to visitors.  But it’s more than that.  This approach connects us to the work of the Healthy Waters team at Auckland Council by contributing the results of our research, guiding their technical advice documents, and providing a shop window to promote water sensitive design as the future of our city.  It’s also personal as it protects our stream, Puhinui.

A research scientist writes papers, they don’t have the ability like we do to interpret science using art, for example.

manu torino1
Manu Torino by Fred Graham welcomes visitors to the Gardens and signifies our place in the Puhinui catchment.

We can also use beautiful, technically accurate, interpretation (much easier to read than a scientific paper!)



The self-guided interpretive “Sustainable Water Trail” at Auckland Botanic Gardens shows how plants can slow the flow of storm water and clean it up.


I highlighted the series of gardens which treat storm water including swales, living roofs, wetlands, riparian planting, tree pits and a sediment forebay.

1 Nov 2013 034
Living Roof in the Potter Children’s Garden

One of the best things for staff at ABG is the research connects us to scientists such as Dr Robyn Simcock from Landcare Research.

Sediment and Stormwater Field Day Oct 2009 009
Robyn explains the construction, planting and functions of the vegetated swale at ABG to storm water engineers.

Just before I left for my trip I worked on the latest guidance document the Council will be releasing on water sensitive design.  Our plant advice, based on what we’ve learned managing these gardens, is in there.  The Council will also run an online training based on our advice and we’ll help them guide a training walk based on the trail at the Gardens.

I suspect after the floods we’ve had in Auckland this year our water sensitive design trail will be more relevant than ever.




One Comment Add yours

  1. Mary says:

    Fantastic work!

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