‘Wormy lambs’ video takes out national award

Massey University PhD student Seer Ikurio has won a Royal Society Te Apārangi award for his video about lambs and worms.

Mr Ikurio won the Future Leader Award as part of the Royal Society Te Apārangi Early Career Researcher video competition – 180 Seconds of Discovery. The award comes with a $3000 prize.

His video was titled, ‘Wormy lambs: Using sensing technologies to make targeted treatments’.

The competition asked New Zealand-based postgraduate students to share their research in a three-minute video, uploaded to Thinkable.org. The videos received over 20,000 views from around world and a total of 1326 votes.

Earlier this year, Mr Ikurio, from the School of Veterinary Science, was voted the People’s Choice Award of $1000 for his presentation titled, ‘My lamb is behaving odd, it might have worms’ at the Massey University’s doctoral Three-Minute Thesis final.

The video was edited by David Achegbulu.

Source:  Massey University

Pink milk and sandcastles: Could milk proteins help create bioadhesives?

The Royal Society Te Apārangi website has highlighted (HERE) an article by Dr Skelte Anema, FRSNZ, which reviews research on spontaneous interactions in milk proteins.

In the article ‘Spontaneous interaction of lactoferrin with casein micelles or individual caseins published in Ngā Kete: The 2018 Annual Collection of Reviews, Dr Anema, from the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, summarises research carried out by his group on spontaneous interactions between the large milk-derived basic protein lactoferrin with casein micelles in milk, and with individual isolated casein proteins.

The spontaneous self-assembly of biological macromolecules holds the potential to offer unique functionalities in food and technical applications.

About 3.5% of cow milk is protein, which can be divided into two broad groups. These groups are whey proteins (which are around 20% of the total protein) and casein proteins (around 80% of the total protein). The function of casein micelles in milk is to transport high levels of insoluble calcium phosphate and protein to newborns in an easily digestible format. The casein micelles clot in the stomach which slows the digestion of milk, allowing greater absorption of nutrients.

Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein and is found in the whey of mammalian milk. It is an important immune-regulatory and anti-microbial protein, which has iron-binding abilities and can remove iron from its environment. Natural freeze-dried lactoferrin and its solutions are light pink in colour, whereas iron-depleted lactoferrin is translucent and iron-saturated lactoferrin is blood red in appearance.

In his Ngā Kete review article, Dr Anema discusses that when high levels of iron-saturated lactoferrin were added to the milk, the casein micelles took on a significant pink colouration. Another observation was that when the pink milk with extra lactoferrin was stored for prolonged periods of time, it slowly became translucent.

The spontaneous interactions and formed complexes discussed in the review article pose interesting questions about potential practical and commercial applications for the research. Caseins have technical applications including adhesives and paper coatings, and there may be a possibility that certain solutions (coacervates) could be applied for new technical functions.

The sandcastle worm Phragmatopoma californica secretes an adhesive that allows it to build shelters for itself in the ocean, by gluing together grains of sand. The sandcastle worm secretion is mostly made up of oppositely charged proteins. Further investigation into spontaneous interactions of oppositely charged milk proteins such as those between lactoferrin and caseins, could potentially inspire future developments of new bio-adhesives.

Dr Skelte Anema, made a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2016, has been working in the New Zealand dairy industry since 1990. His primary research interests are milk proteins, including whey protein denaturation kinetics, interactions between milk proteins, effects of novel processing technologies on milk protein interactions, and spontaneous protein self-assembly.

The review article ‘Spontaneous interaction of lactoferrin with casein micelles or individual caseins has been published in Ngā Kete and is available free-to-access for a limited time at Taylor and Francis Online.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi

Royal Society posts video discussion among experts on land use and climate change

A video recording of a panel discussion which looks at the implications for land use of responses to climate change, in this country and around the globe, has been posted on the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s website.

The discussion, Land use and climate change: new pressures and new possibilities?, is chaired by Veronika Meduna, NZ editor of The Conversation.

Issues of current land use and climate change are explored with a panel of international contributors – their expertise is in global food security, sustainable resource management, renewable energy, sustainable development, and economics relating to climate change.

The event was opened by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III co-chairs Professor Jim Skea (UK) and Dr Youba Sokona (Mali), who were at the IPCC lead authors’ meeting on Land Use and Climate Change in Christchurch in March.

Speakers were:

Professor Tim Benton (UK)
Professor and Dean of Strategic Research Initiatives at the University of Leeds and Distinguished Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London. Formerly the Champion of the UK’s Global Food Security programme.

Professor Annette Cowie (AUS)
Principal Research Scientist -Climate, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Research experience includes sustainability assessment and greenhouse gas accounting in agriculture and forestry; investigating key aspects of soil carbon dynamics; life cycle assessment of forestry, bioenergy and biochar systems.

Dr Fatima Denton (Ethiopia)
Head of the African Climate Policy Centre, Director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Special Initiatives Division.
In 2016 she was nominated by the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium, as one of the Women Leaders Driving Agricultural Transformation in Africa.

Associate Professor Anita Wreford (NZ)
Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln University (NZ)
Applied economist specialising in responses to climate change, Anita is a lead author for the IPCC Working Group III.

The event was hosted by the University of Canterbury in partnership with the IPCC, the Ministry for the Environment, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Comprehensive resources on the implications of climate change, the impact on health, and mitigation options for New Zealand can be found at the Royal Society Te Apārangi website HERE. 

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi

Royal Society video deals with talking, teaching and writing about climate change

The Royal Society Te Apārangi, has posted a video, “New ideas about how to talk, teach and write about climate change,” which offers fresh approaches to teach and talk about climate change.

The video (HERE) is aimed particularly at students, journalists and teachers as well as the general public.

It was presented in partnership by University of Canterbury, Ngāi Tahu, IPCC, the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and Royal Society Te Apārangi, ahead of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Christchurch last month for the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land, one of three Special Reports that the IPCC will publish in the next two years.

The speakers explore how they engage communities in the issues of climate change, as well as how they develop communication materials that are practical and action-oriented.

Speakers include:

Dr Marion Ferrat (UK) Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement for IPCC Working Group III, which assesses the options for reducing climate change. She previously worked as specialist on the Energy and Climate Change Committee in the UK Parliament, has a PhD in palaeoclimatology and climate modelling, a Masters in Science Communication and a Masters in Geophysics from Imperial College, London.

Dr Daniel Collins (NZ) is a hydrologist at NIWA. His research examines the movement of water through the natural and human-modified water cycle. Daniel frequently discusses climate change science with government, community and industry groups, and the media, using social media and citizen science to expand engagement with the public.

Rebecca Macfie (NZ) is an award-winning journalist who has written about business, environmental and social issues for three decades. A senior writer with the New Zealand Listener 2007-2018, in 2017 she was awarded a Wolfson Fellowship by the Newspaper Publishers Association, to spend 10 weeks at Cambridge University to research financial, economic and policy responses to climate change.

Dr Deirdre Hart (NZ) is a Senior Lecturer in Geography at University of Canterbury where she researches the physical, biological and human (built environment lifelines) processes and interactions in coastal environments. Her research approach is multi-disciplinary and she is an experienced research communicator.

Emma Puloka (Tonga) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Canterbury’s College of Education, Health and Human Development researching conceptualisations of local environmental issues in Year 10 Science: talanoa from Tonga and Vanuatu.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi,

Drive is under way to rid communities of wasps

Invasive “social” wasps are putting major pressure on New Zealand’s biodiversity and cost the economy an estimated $130 million a year, Radio NZ reminded us today.

That figure comes from a 2015 Department of Conservation study (HERE) which assessed the economic impact of German wasps and common wasps across industries, society and the natural environment in New Zealand.

The report said the biggest economic impacts were on farming, beekeeping, horticulture and forestry workers.

This assessment was based on a literature review. Information was collected from previous studies and from affected sectors in New Zealand to estimate the total costs of wasps, ie the costs that could be avoided and the opportunities that could be gained if wasps were not present in New Zealand.

New Zealand has some of the highest densities of German and common wasps in the world. Wasps have huge social and biological impacts; they are one of the most damaging invertebrate pests in New Zealand, harming our native birds and insects.

The DOC study found the major financial impact was on primary industries and the health sector and included:

  • more than $60 million a year in costs to pastoral farming from wasps disrupting bee pollination activities, reducing the amount of clover in pastures and increasing fertiliser costs.
  • almost $9 million a year cost to beekeepers from wasps attacking honey bees, robbing their honey and destroying hives.
  • wasp-related traffic accidents estimated to cost $1.4 million a year.
  • over $1 million each year spent on health costs from wasp stings.
  • on top of the direct costs, almost $60 million a year is lost in unrealised honey production from beech forest honeydew which is currently being monopolised by wasps. Honeydew is also a valuable energy source for kaka, tui and bellbirds.

Radio NZ today described the invasive common wasp (aka Vespula Vulgaris), the German wasp, and our three species of paper wasp as being among “our most-hated introduced pests”.

The Royal Society, the Department of Conservation and some local communities are dedicating time, money and energy into putting an end to their predatory behaviour, which affects birds, bats, bees and other insects.

Entomologist and author of The Vulgar Wasp Phil Lester has been talking with Simon Morton about New Zealand’s problem wasps and the latest ways of keeping them under control, which include insecticides and genetic manipulation.

You can listen here to the interview (duration15′ :02″)

Source: Radio NZ

New device made available for work in NZ could help control harm from food

A “game-changing” piece of technology for quickly identifying harmful strains of bacteria in food has become available in New Zealand, thanks to a partnership between a Lincoln University taxonomy expert and two US senior food safety researchers.

The scanner, called a BEAM device, was developed at Purdue University in Indiana with an initial focus on the United States market.

It has been offered free of charge to Lincoln University Associate Professor Stephen On and is the only device of its kind outside the US.

Dr On recently received an $80,000 Catalyst grant from the Royal Society Te Apārangi to use the scanner for New Zealand-focused research that will complement studies already being undertaken in the United States.

The resulting data will be pooled for maximum global impact.

The scanner is designed to better identify disease outbreaks by providing a “specific fingerprint” of bacteria cultured on a standard agar media plate.

This allows scientists to pinpoint strains of interest more quickly, with a particular focus on pathogens.

“If there’s an outbreak of E. coli or Salmonella, for example, you may have dozens of samples to examine,” said Dr On.

“The technology provides the major advantage of identifying the pathogen of concern by rapidly screening it from microorganisms naturally present in food or clinical samples.

“Because it’s non-invasive, you can take your isolate of interest and further characterise it with sub-typing methodologies to better identify an outbreak

“No comparable technology is available elsewhere – it’s a game-changer.”

The project with the US experts came about after Dr On visited Purdue University in 2015 to investigate whether the BEAM technology would be relevant to New Zealand.

The results, some of which involved 26 pathogenic E. coli strains important to New Zealand meat products, were promising.

“They showed the potential value of BEAM to national problems and indicated that the method might be capable of identifying E. coli strains with a higher infection potential than others,” said Dr On.

“This is a first in the history of underpinning BEAM research.”

The United States researchers are Endowed Cytometry Professor J. Paul Robinson, of Purdue University, and Professor James Lindsay, senior national program leader for the US Department of Agriculture.

Dr On will work with them to examine a geographically diverse range of strains of microbial species of clinical and economic importance to New Zealand and the US.

He said the economic and public health significance of pathogenic E. coli remained of critical importance and partners of the NZ Food Safety and Science Research Centre (including ESR and Plant & Food Research) had identified other bacterial pathogens of concern, including Campylobacter and Listeria.

This requires improvements in diagnostics, he said.

Source: Lincoln University

Lecture series: can invasive plants and non-native weeds choke our country?


Professor Philip Hulme

Professor Philip Hulme, this year’s recipient of the Leonard Cockayne Lecture Award, will present a series of talks on the current and future threats to New Zealand by non-native plants and the policies and tools that are needed to control them.

Based at New Zealand’s Bio-Protection Research Centre and Chair in Plant Biosecurity at Lincoln University, Professor Hulme is being recognised for his scholarship and scientific achievements that have significantly progressed global understanding of the causes and consequences of biological invasions.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Vice-President Professor Barry Scott says Professor Hulme is a leading New Zealand researcher on the ecology of invasions by plant species.

The aim of his work is to provide tools to scientists, conservation and policy-makers to deal with biological invasions.

His studies are not confined to New Zealand but include a wide range of collaborations with overseas scientists.

He is one of New Zealand’s most highly cited scientists being included for the fourth year in a row in The Thompson Reuters list of most highly cited scientists worldwide. He is the only New Zealand-based environmental scientist to be included in this global list.

In the series of five talks across the country, Professor Hulme will discuss how many of our introduced plant species, including those that were thought of as harmless for home and botanic gardens, are now posing significant economic and environmental costs.

He also will delve into why both the government and communities need to become more effective in preventing and controlling these plant invaders.

“New Zealand’s environment and agricultural production are central to the economy, and biosecurity threats are a major concern for the sustainable use of these resources,” he says.

Everybody is welcome to attend these free public events but the Royal Society Te Aparangi recommends registering to guarantee seat(s).


Palmerston North | Palmerston North Central Library, Events Central – register for Palmerston North
7:30pm Wednesday 9 May

Napier | EIT, Lecture Theatre LTH1 – register for Napier
7:30pm Thursday 10 May

Christchurch | University of Canterbury, C2 Central Lecture Theatres – register for Christchurch
6:30pm Wednesday 16 May

Wellington | Royal Society Te Apārangi, Aronui Lecture Theatre – register for Wellington
6:30pm Wednesday 23 May

Nelson | Nelson Elim Christian Centre – register for Nelson
7:30pm Tuesday 5 June

This event is presented by the society in partnership with the Bio-Protection Research Centre.

Source: Royal Society Te Aparangi