Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Integrated catchment management research: lessons for interdisciplinary science from the Motueka Catchment, New Zealand

Chris Phillips A F , Will Allen E , Andrew Fenemor B , Breck Bowden C and Roger Young D

A Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.

B Landcare Research, Private Bag 6, Nelson 7042, New Zealand.

C Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 304 Aiken Center, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.

D Cawthron Institute, Private Bag 2, Nelson 7042, New Zealand.

E Learning for Sustainability –

F Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(7) 749-763
Submitted: 5 May 2009  Accepted: 4 March 2010   Published: 23 July 2010


Integrative research projects are becoming more common and inherently face challenges that single-discipline or multi-disciplinary projects seldom do. It is difficult to learn what makes a successful integrative research project as many of these challenges and solutions often go unreported. Using the New Zealand Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) for the Motueka River research program, we reflect on the demands confronting research programs attempting to operate in an integrative interdisciplinary manner. We highlight seven key lessons that may help others learn of the benefits and difficulties that confront scientists and stakeholders involved in undertaking similar research. These are (1) clarify the goal and work with key people; (2) manage expectations; (3) agree on integrative concepts and face the challenge of epistemology; (4) leadership; (5) communication in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect; (6) acknowledge that different modes of learning mean that a wide range of knowledge products are needed; and (7) measure and celebrate success. The recognition that many environmental problems can only be solved through the creation of new knowledge and through social processes that engage the research and management domains has been a major benefit of the research program.

Additional keywords: evaluation, ICM, integration, lessons, multi-disciplinary, success.


The ICM Motueka whanau/family (researchers, partners, stakeholders, catchment dwellers) is thanked for providing a great place to work and for the ongoing support we have all received in the last 10 years. Christine Bezar is thanked for editing an earlier manuscript. The authors are extremely grateful for the input and suggestions from the guest editor and two anonymous reviewers who provided insightful comments and suggestions that have significantly improved the original manuscript. This research was supported by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology under Contract CO9X0305.


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