Royal Society Te Aparangi elects Dr Brent Clothier as its next president

Dr Brent Clothier, FRSNZ, from Plant & Food Research, has been elected to succeed Professor Wendy Larner, FRSNZ, as President of the Royal Society Te Aparangi. He will serve as President-elect through to July 2021 when his three-year term commences.

Dr Clothier is the first Crown Research Institute (CRI) scientist to lead the 153-year old society, previously known as the Royal Society of New Zealand, since CRIs were formed in 1992. Two presidents had come from government research organisations which preceded the CRIs before 1992.

Science New Zealand chair John Morgan, chief executive of NIWA, says the CRIs are delighted that Dr Clothier has been invited to take on this role. Continue reading

Researchers and scholars at the top of their fields are elected as fellows

A fresh bunch of fellows and an honorary fellow have been elected to the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi for their distinction in research and advancement of science, technology or the humanities.

Announced by the society yesterday, they were hailed as world leaders in the following topics: improving human–machine interactions, moral philosophy, autobiographical memory, Pasifika poetry, cross-cultural psychology, Indigenous studies and the politics of polar regions. Also, paleobiology, seabed geology, tectonic and seismic hazards, pollen records, reintroduction biology, mathematical functional analysis, optical physics, stroke, maternal health, bone biology, end of life care and gout.

There’s the whiff of something horticultural about pollen records.  But beyond that, the list looks bereft of ag/hort scientists.

The royal society said being made a fellow is an honour that recognises distinction in research, scholarship or the advancement of knowledge at the highest international standards. Fellows can use the post-nominal ‘FRSNZ’ after their name to indicate this honour.

Continue reading

Rutherford Foundation early-career researcher fellowships announced

The 2019 Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships and a Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship have been awarded to 11 early-career researchers.

And hurrah for the ag/hort sector – we spotted a Plant and Food Research scientist among the recipients.

The 2019 Postdoctoral Fellows will be exploring a diverse range of research topics, including:

• pathogen-resistant kiwifruit that do not require metal-based pesticides (the ag/hort success);

• metamaterials that could potentially turn every glass window into a transparent solar panel;

• improved earthquake hazard resilience in Aotearoa;

• new methods for producing personalised cancer therapies that enable the patient’s own immune system to search for and destroy cancerous cells. Continue reading

Marsden Fund sprinkles $83.6m of funding on NZ science projects but it’s hard to spot the ag/hort beneficiaries

Uh, oh. It looks like the ag/hort science sector has secured precious little – if anything – from the Marsden Fund’s 2019 grants.

The fund is managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government and presumably its decisions reflect government policy.

This week the allocation of $83.671 million (excluding GST) to 125 research projects across New Zealand was announced.

The society says the 2019 grants support excellent New Zealand research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities

Two large interdisciplinary projects this year received inaugural Marsden Fund Council Awards worth $3 million (excluding GST) each. Continue reading

2020 RHT Bates Scholarship awarded for meat quality measurement research

Abi Thampi, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland, has been awarded the 2020 RHT Bates Scholarship.

Abi has been awarded the scholarship for his research to develop classification models to measure the quality of meat non-invasively in real time and to detect different types of cancer cells in skin.

The field of non-destructive evaluation and testing comprises many different techniques and approaches. One of these techniques, optical coherence tomography (OCT), enables a fast, purely optical, non-invasive, contact-less and high-resolution imaging of subsurface features at a level of only a few microns. It could be described as a light-based version of ultrasound imaging.

His research aim is to develop classification models for Polarisation Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography (PS-OCT) that can determine the quality of meat by being able to measure key quality parameters of muscle fibres, such as the percentage of intramuscular fat.

He also seeks to develop predictive models to detect three different types of basal cell carcinoma cancer in skin at its early stages.

The RHT Bates Scholarship was established by Royal Society Te Apārangi in memory of Professor Richard Bates FRSNZ to support interdisciplinary research.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi

Marsden Fund gives a boost to climate change research

Several climate change projects were given a boost in the latest Marsden Fund investment of $83.6 million, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said today.

The projects that will benefit from the investment include –

 Projects aimed at addressing climate change

  • Geologic champagne: What controls sudden release of CO2 at glacial terminations on the Chatham Rise? (The University of Auckland) – $952,000
  • Drought or Deluge? How did Rainfall in the Tropical South Pacific Respond to Sudden Climate Change During the Glacial Period? (Victoria University of Wellington) – $960,000
  • Could airborne microplastics play a role in climate change? (University of Canterbury) – $300,000

Projects aimed at renewable energy issues

  • Molecular wiring of graphene with organic films (University of Canterbury) – $960,000
  • Photon multiplying light harvesting antenna systems for luminescent solar concentrators (Victoria University of Wellington) – $278,499
  • Can enhanced exciton diffusion propel organic photovoltaic cells beyond the bulk heterojunction? (Victoria University of Wellington) – $891,197

Continue reading

Young scientists’ letter to a divided Green Party calls for a review of our GM law to help tackle climate crisis

A group of 155 New Zealanders under 30 who specialise in biological or environmental science have challenged the Green Party to revisit its position on genetic modification.

They have signed an open letter which urges Green Party members and MPs to take a lead in overhauling strict legislation, enacted 16 years ago, that regulates GM research. The climate crisis makes a review of the law a matter of urgency, they argue.

  “Climate change is one of the greatest crisis in human history, and our current law severely restricts the development of technologies that could make a vital difference,”  the letter says.

Continue reading

Innovators are saluted at Royal Society function – but the ag/hort sector has scant cause to celebrate

Innovation in agriculture and horticulture – it seems – is no longer important to the Royal Society Te Aparangi.


Well, let’s check out the achievements and contributions of the innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars that were celebrated at this year’s Research Honours Aotearoa, hosted by Royal Society Te Apārangi and held at the Town Hall in Ōtepoti, Dunedin.

The society awarded 17 medals and awards and the Health Research Council of New Zealand presented three awards.

Alas, we can find no agricultural or horticultural innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars among those celebrated. Continue reading

2019 Rutherford Discovery Fellowships to accelerate research careers announced

Associate Professor Melanie Ooi, at University of Waikato, has been awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for research titled “Resilient and efficient light-based plant detection and characterisation for precision agriculture and environmental sustainability”.

Dr Volker Nock, at University of Canterbury, won a fellowship for research titled “Electrotaxis and protrusive force generation in fungal and oomycete pathogens – pathways to new biocontrol strategies”.

These were among the 11 fellowships awarded to early¬ to mid-career researchers to support them to accelerate their research careers in New Zealand.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships receive government funding of $8 million a year and award $800,000 over five years to each research fellow.  At least 50 Rutherford Discovery Fellows are supported at any one time. Continue reading

Livestock ‘Worm Detective’ wins trip to Berlin

Attempting to break down the wall of resistant worms in livestock has won Seer Ikurior from Massey University the chance to compete at the Falling Walls Lab final in Berlin in November. He was selected from 45 applicants from New Zealand and Pacific, 20 of whom were chosen to pitch their ideas at the Falling Walls Lab New Zealand event held by Royal Society Te Apārangi this week, with support from the German Embassy in Wellington.

Calling himself the “Worm Detective”, based on his admiration for fictional detectives as a child, Seer set out to see if he could tell whether lambs were suffering from worms by observing their behaviour in the field.

Worms present a major health issue for sheep farming and all lambs are routinely treated with anti-worm treatments whether they are infected or not.  This is causing an increase in the numbers of worms resistant to treatment, just as the overuse of antibiotics is increasing the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Continue reading