Outstanding science recognised at inaugural Science Awards night

To celebrate 25 years of science and research since the inception of the country's seven Crown Research Institutes, Science New Zealand hosted its inaugural national awards at Parliament.

A woman dedicated to rebuilding fish stocks, the man at the forefront of earthquake monitoring system GeoNet, and a team dedicated to helping Pacific nations better prepare for climate change, are among those honoured for their contribution to science.

Award winners at NZ Science Awards 2017

Science New Zealand, which represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), last week hosted its inaugural national awards at Parliament.

It was a week of celebration for Science New Zealand, which is marking 25 years since the inception of CRIs with a conference, quick-fire public talks and displays at Te Papa, as well as the awards evening.

Science New Zealand chairman Richard Gordon said the awards recognised the exceptional people contributing their expertise, insight and dedication to benefit New Zealand.

“The CRIs are part of a tradition of government-owned science research and application going back more than 150 years. We remain true to the legacy of helping shape New Zealand’s wealth and wellbeing, creating opportunities and protecting what is important to New Zealanders.”

Achievements this year were celebrated in three categories: early career research, lifetime achievement and team with Mr Gordon congratulating each winner for their outstanding contribution and commitment to exceptional science.

The awardees are:

Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr Ken Gledhill, GNS Science

Dr Gledhill designed and built the first digital seismographs in New Zealand. He was a key player in getting the geological hazard monitoring system GeoNet started in 2001, and has led it into a new era and helped ensure it has become a household name.

Dr John McEwan – AgResearch

John has been a major force behind many initiatives aimed at improving the genetic merit of livestock, particularly sheep, and in other species in New Zealand, Australia and globally. He has been a lead person in several international consortia and is highly respected amongst his colleagues both nationally and internationally and has more than 280 publications.

Dr Murray Close – ESR

Dr Murray Close is a Principal Scientist at ESR in Christchurch and leads the Groundwater Contamination research team. He has over 38 years’ experience and a wide knowledge of groundwater conditions and processes throughout New Zealand.

John Innes – Manaaki Whenua

For nearly four decades, John has made a remarkable contribution to science, underpinning current knowledge and restoration of many of New Zealand’s endemic birds and forest ecosystems.

Dr Clive Howard-Williams – NIWA

Clive is New Zealand’s foremost freshwater scientist. He has more than 45 years of research experience that spans the globe, and has produced more than 300 publications and applied science reports. He has been on copious editorial and advisory boards, was the principal science advisor to the Land and Water Forum, and Chairman of the Science Review Panel for the Government’s National Objectives Framework of the recent Freshwater Reforms.

Dr Susan Gardiner – Plant & Food Research

New Zealand is the world leader in apple and kiwifruit horticulture, and one of the first people we should thank is Dr Sue Gardiner. Sue pioneered genetic mapping in apples in the early 1990s and built a lead that our competitors are still trying to close. The techniques and tools her team developed have helped breeders to streamline their process by identifying seedlings known to carry the traits they want, saving space, effort, cost and time.

Dr David Cown – Scion

Dave Cown’s 40 years at Scion has created a legacy second to none in the forestry industry. Dave played a pivotal role in the development of wood science and the translation of this science into application. His work made industry aware of the sources of wood quality variation and how to control it. This underpinned tree breeding programmes, forest management and wood processing strategies all of which are now embedded in industry norms.

Early Career Research

Dr Maren Wellenreuther – Plant & Food Research

Dr Marne Wellenreuther is passionate about the potential of genomics to revolutionise the fishing industry, breed new species and rebuild fish stocks. She is leading New Zealand’s first native inshore fish breeding programme using genomic tools to identify hardiness and growth potential in snapper. She believes this approach is the best chance to create a more productive and sustainable seafood industry.

Dr Estelle Dominati – AgResearch

As an AgResearch PhD student and Rutherford post-doctoral scholar, Estelle developed a concise and elegant framework to describe, quantify and value the natural capital stocks and provision of services that underpin New Zealand’s primary industries and natural environment. The linking of Mātauranga Māori to the natural capital ecosystem services framework to create a culturally based natural resource management process is the focus of her current research.

Dr Jo-Anne Bright – ESR

Dr Jo-Anne Bright has been instrumental in the development of STRmix™ and she has an extensive list of published papers, despite only receiving her PhD within the last three years. She is a Senior Science Leader, based in Auckland, and has 18 years’ experience in forensic casework, quality management and training within the laboratory. In 2015, Jo was awarded her PhD in Forensic Science from the University of Auckland.

Dr Jérôme Leveneur – GNS Science

Jérôme works in the materials division of GNS Science’s National Isotope Centre in Lower Hutt. He gained his PhD in materials science and nanotechnology from the University of Auckland in 2012 and has shown a flair for setting up innovative scientific projects with industry partners and end-users. His teams research and develop surface coatings, sensors, and surface modifications. A good deal of the work is accomplished at the nano-scale. For instance, some of the new-age surface coatings are 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

Dr Nick Cradock-Henry – Manaaki Whenua

Since starting at Manaaki Whenua six years ago, Nick has demonstrated extraordinary drive and ability to become a Senior Researcher in Social Science.

He publishes at a very high level internationally, including papers in Nature, Climate Change, Ecology and Society, Political Science and Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

Dr Kim Goetz – NIWA

Kim led a pioneering underwater sound project, deploying seven acoustic moorings in Cook Strait. Preliminary results revealed the sounds of common whale species as well as Antarctic blue whales, Antarctic minke whales and what are likely to be the first recordings of Gray’s and strap-toothed beaked whales in New Zealand waters.

Dr Nari Williams – Scion

Dr Nari Williams started at Scion in 2012, after six years experience in disease management at Murdoch University. Nari specialises in pathology, in particular the management and biology of Phytophthora diseases. As an early career researcher, Nari initiated and led a Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment bid that resulted in the Healthy Trees, Healthy Future programme. This vision resulted in multi-sector, highly collaborative science that brings together researchers from New Zealand’s primary sector CRI’s, universities and overseas organisations to protect our forests and horticultural crops from present and future Phytophthora diseases. As technical lead, Nari successfully harnessed the talents of pathologists, geneticists, biochemists, molecular biologists and mathematicians among others to achieve this common goal.

Team Award:

AR37, A Novel Endophyte – AgResearch

Anouck de Bonth, Sweta Bhattarai, Stuart Card, David Hume, Debbie Hudson, Sarah Finch, Milan Gagic, Natasha Forester, Linda Johnson, Richard Johnson, Leo Liu, Wade Mace, Yulia Morozova, Wayne Simpson, Jaspreet Singh, Jan Sprosen & Lee Sutherland, Christine Voisey, Nikki Webb (Plant-Fungal Interactions); Joanne Jensen & Alison Popay (Biocontrol & Biosecurity); Marty Faville, Jana Schmidt (Forage Genetics); John Caradus, Bruce Belgrave, Joy Lin, Shaun Monk & Dawn Perry (Grasslanz Technology Ltd); Phil Rolston (Honorary Researcher); Syd Easton (Emeritus Professor); Chris Pennell, Brian Tapper, Geoff Lane, Mike Christensen, Garry Latch, Lester Fletcher, Lyn Briggs, Jeff Miller, Tom Lyons, and Doug Ryan.

This team of scientists discovered a novel endophyte, AR37, that provides ryegrass with better insect protection advantages and plant persistence than that delivered by standard endophytes, but has few adverse effects on animal health.

Forensic Biology Team – ESR

Represented by Sue Vintiner, Lisa Melia, Sarah Cockerton, Keshni Rasanayagam and SallyAnn Harbison.

The Forensic Biology team contributes to solving crime in New Zealand through the management of the DNA databank and the team’s pioneering spirit in DNA profiling.

NZ UNCLOS Team – GNS Science

GNS Science: Vaughan Stagpoole, Ray Wood, Chris Uruski, Bryan Davy, Rob Johnston, Hai Zhu, Dan Barker, Karen Hayes, Eileen McSaveney, Jenny Black, Rick Herzer, Stuart Henrys, Guy Maslen, Josephine Hatton, Biljana Lukovic.

NIWA: Kevin MacKay, Ian Wright, Phil Barnes, Arne Pallentin, John Mitchell.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Elana Geddis, Nigel Fyfe, Gerard van Bohemen, Bill Mansfield, Trevor Hughes, Rosemary Paterson.

Land Information New Zealand: Russell Turner, Jerome Sheppard, Kelly Lafoga, John Hook, Bruce Wallen, Don Grant.

NZ Defence Force: Ian Lamont.

This team secured for New Zealand an area of seafloor nearly three times the size of France. This sovereign area is in addition to our EEZ and is called the Extended Continental Shelf. It means New Zealand’s total offshore area is 5.7 million square kilometres - equivalent to 14 times the size of California or 1 percent of the Earth’s surface. New Zealand has sovereign rights to everything on and under the seafloor in this vast area.

Pacific Hydroclimate Team – NIWA

Mark Crump, Stuart Escott, Marty Flanagan, Andrew Harper, Jeremy Rutherford, Barry Waugh.

The hydroclimate instrumentation and deployment team have transformed both the monitoring effort and related human capacity across some of the most climate-vulnerable and economically-vulnerable countries in the world. They provide the foundations for NIWA’s substantial programme of climate services and early warning in the Pacific region, with the result that NIWA is considered the primary partner in this area for Pacific Island Meteorological Services.

TB Free Team – Manaaki Whenua

Graham Nugent, Bruce Warburton, Peter Sweetapple, Ivor Yockney, Grant Morriss, Jackie Whitford, Dean Anderson, Mandy Barron, Andrew Gormley, Dave Morgan, Sam Brown.

Recognised for their outstanding teamwork, and excellent science in refining aerial 1080, where it remains the only large-scale possum, ship rat and stoat control tool available for contemporary conservation in New Zealand.

Pollination & Apiculture Team – Plant & Food Research

David Pattemore, Mark Goodwin, Brad Howlett, Michelle Taylor, James Sainsbury, Mateusz Jochym, Lisa Evans, Heather McBrydie, Brian Cutting, Sarah Cross, Samantha Read, Crystal Felman, Milena Janke, Charlotte Hardy, Grant Fale, Tamatea Nathan, Max Buxton, Theo Van Noort.

The Pollination & Apiculture Team has helped ensure pollination of New Zealand fruit and vegetable crops has stayed ahead of the threats to honey bees from the varroa mite and other causes of hive collapse. As well as developing new lines of ‘varroa sensitive hygiene’ bees that destroy mite-infested pupae, they have developed guides for controlling varroa and American foulbrood in hives.

Biosecurity Team – Scion

Represented by Dr Stephen Pawson, Senior Forest Entomologist and Research Leader; Dr Carol Rolando, Senior Pest Management Scientist and Research Leader; Lindsay Bulman, Senior Forest Pathologist and Science Leader.

Scion’s Biosecurity Team is responsible for many science impacts that have benefited the forest industry, Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand public. The team’s research has resulted in successful management of several new-to-science diseases and development of a forestry biosecurity surveillance system considered by overseas experts to be the best in the world.

Related information