About us

 Te Ao Mārama – the Centre for Fundamental Inquiry – exists to promote engagement with deep questions at the University of Auckland and beyond. We are interested in simple questions that are hard to answer and which transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. Such questions include:

Abiogenesis How did life originate from living matter?

Astrobiology How is life distributed in the universe and what makes living systems unique?

Multiverse cosmology Was the Big Bang a unique event and are apparently fundamental laws of physics applicable only in “our” universe?

IFR AMR Mutation

Image Credit: Ant Poole

IFR AMR WT

Image Credit: Ant Poole

IFR RJC Mutations S C

Image Credit: Ant Poole

IF2

Image Credit: Ant Poole

Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Orakei Korkako Geothermal Park

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Mud pool

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Image Credit – Kathy Campbell

Hot spring at Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

Streamer fabric in a hot spring outflow channel

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Microbial mat

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Microbial mat

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Bubble mat

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

SEM image of silicified filamentous microbes

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

SEM image of silicified microbes

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

SEM image of silicified microbes

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

SEM image of silicified microbes

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Image Credit: Kathy Campbell

Microstromatolites at Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Silicifying microbes in hot spring stromatolite, Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Image Credit: Kim Handley

Silicified microbes at Tokaanu geothermal area

Image Credit: Kirsty Nicholson

Silicifying microbes in a hot spring stromatolite, Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Image Credit: Kim Handley

Silicifying microbial mat trapping gas bubbles, Orakei Korako

Image Credit: Sue Turner

Silicifying microbial mat trapping gas bubbles, Orakei Korako

Image Credit: Sue Turner

Geyserite at Orakei Korako

Image Credit: Sue Turner

Hugo Galaxy

NASA

Photo of Milky Way from Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Image Credit: Alex Conu

Photo of Milky Way

Image Credit: Alex Conu

Photo of Milky Way

Image Credit: Alex Conu

Photo of Milky Way near Wellington

Image Credit: Mark Gee

Photo of Milky Way over Aoraki National Park (Mt Cook)

Image Credit: Jackie Ranken at Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography

Ferns

Image Credit: Andrea Alfaro

Ferns

Image Credit: Andrea Alfaro

Ferns

Image Credit: Andrea Alfaro

Ferns

Image Credit: Andrea Alfaro

Ferns

Image Credit: Andrea Alfaro

A unique model
Te Ao Mārama is one of a handful of organizations and institutes world-wide with the goal to focus on “fundamental” questions, and it has a distinctive New Zealand focus. Being located in New Zealand gives us our own vantage point on some of these key questions. For example, comparing New Zealand’s hot springs with similar ‘deep time’ (millions to billions of years old) deposits globally suggests life existed on land on Earth much earlier than was once thought. This re-opens debate about whether life began on land or in the sea, and has implications for NASA’s 2020 Mars expedition. Read the media release.

The name
Te Ao Mārama literally means the “world of life and light”, the idea of breaking into light from darkness. This progression is a metaphor for coming to an understanding of something – a journey of discovery and becoming. By taking a name drawn from Te Ao Māori, we are expressing our commitment to working on transcendent questions from a vantage point that is firmly located within Aotearoa/New Zealand and draws from both mātauranga and science.

Leadership
Professor Kathy Campbell from the School of Environment at the University of Auckland is the Director of Te Ao Mārama. She is joined by co-founders Professor Richard Easther from the Department of Physics, Dr Daniel Hikuroa from Māori Studies and Dr Emily Parke from Philosophy on the Executive group. The wider team includes researchers from Biological Science, Business, Computer Science and Engineering Science.  Meet the team

Code of Conduct
Affiliates of Te Ao Mārama and participants in activities we organise are expected to be committed to making these interactions productive and positive experiences for everyone involved, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, nationality or religion. Consequently, we will not tolerate harassment of participants in any form