Science and Technology Alert: Issue 47


On 11 September in Auckland, The Royal Society celebrated the past four years of Marsden funding and announced the 1998 recipients. Invited guests included people from Universities, CRIs, Polytechnics, the commercial and industrial community, and representatives of local government.

The Minister of Research, Science & Technology, Hon Maurice Williamson, spoke of the importance of government support for fundamental research and promised to continue the fight for funding. The Minister than invited the audience to ‘learn more about just how New Zealand researchers are contributing to our understanding of all aspects of our world, and how their activities are ensuring that we are well positioned with the research skills that we simply must have as a nation. What you learn here today may one day be the source of knowledge that will change profoundly how you work, how you earn your living, how you function in your community and how you view this fascinating world around us.’

Professor Neil Ashcroft Hon FRSNZ, from Cornell University talked of the importance of fundamental research to New Zealand and highlighted examples of how fundamental research has subsequently showed itself to be invaluable for progress. Dr Jeffrey Tallon FRSNZ, from Industrial Research Ltd, then discussed how his fundamental research on superconductivity has already found a place in the commercial world.

Four current Marsden contractors and one 1998 recipient gave lively 5-minute talks about their Marsden research. All the speakers used Power Point presentations assembled by the graphic production firm Multi Media.

  • Professor Philip Yock MRSNZ, Department of Physics, Auckland University discussed his group’s search for extra-solar planets and dark matter and highlighted the international linkages involved in the NZ/Japan Southern Astronomy Project.
  • Dr Judith Simon, Department of Education, Auckland University talked of the completion of the first part of her team’s study into the Native School system in New Zealand. Dr Simon hoped that the results of the study could be used to inform current and future education policy while avoiding the pitfalls the study had also uncovered.
  • Dr Richard Newcomb, a 1998 recipient from HortResearch, discussed his aims to continue his study into the evolution of the sheep blow fly, especially in relation to insecticide resistance.
  • Dr Carol Taylor and a Ph.D. student, Department of Chemistry, Auckland University, are attempting to synthesise derivatives of a protein used by mussels to stick to rocks. Dr Taylor brought to life the care taken in linking up the chain of amino acids by using an analogy of assembling a gourmet mussel burger.
  • Dr Brent Alloway, in a combined research programme between Auckland University and IGNS and with assistance from the local council, discussed his work on the volcanic record and information relating to climate change available from the Auckland area. Dr Alloway pointed out his surprise findings, in the Auckland samples, of volcanic ash from several regions in the North Island.

63 new contracts were announced. This was from an initial pool of 757 applications received in February. Contracts were awarded in the following areas: Biochemical & Biomedical Sciences (9); Earth Sciences and Astronomy (5); Humanities (6); Life Science (19); Mathematical and Information Science (8); Physical Sciences & Engineering (10); and Social Sciences (8). One contract has received support from both the Humanities and Social Sciences panels.

For the list of 1998 Awards see the website


A workshop on 1997/98 El Nino will be held at the Royal Society in Wellington on 21 October 1998. The focus of this one-day workshop, which has been initiated and organised by the Royal Society’s New Zealand Climate Committee, will be on how to better handle El Niño events and other climatic fluctuations in future. The 1997/98 El Niño reportedly cost the country over $1B and was a prime factor in the recent decline in national GDP growth.

The workshop will be opened by the Hon. Doug Kidd, Speaker of the House and MP for Marlborough. Leading speakers will review the 1997/98 El Niño and its environmental and economic impacts. The science of climate prediction will be explained. Small group sessions will address and report back on key issues such as risk management, identifying opportunities, research needs, and getting ready for the next El Niño. A panel of senior industry leaders will draw together these threads and summarise what needs to be done to make better use of existing science and information mechanisms, and to develop better capabilities for the future.

Places at the workshop will be limited and first priority will go to decision-makers, managers, and researchers in New Zealand’s climate-affected industries.

To register your interest in the workshop please contact Sue Usher at


Early in 1999 Dr Peter Davis will move from the Dept of Community Health at The University of Auckland to take up a Chair in the Department of Public Health and General Practice at Christchurch School of Medicine.

Associate Professor Sally Casswell FRSNZ, Director of the Health Research Council-funded Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit in The University of Auckland has been awarded a Personal Chair.

Professor Linda Holloway, Dean of the Wellington School of Medicine, has been appointed as University of Otago Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) starting from February 1999. The role involves responsibility for the university’s Schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, and the two Schools of Medicine in Dunedin as well as those in Christchurch and Wellington.


Otago Museum’s Discovery World, with the crucial support of Dunedin Electricity, has secured a spectacular laser light show. The show, the first of its kind for New Zealand, will run in the Hutton Theatre for the school holidays (26 September – 11 October) and offers the opportunity for the public to learn the science behind lasers as well as experience an exciting display of laser light effects. The show is being produced especially for the Museum by Auckland-based company ‘Flying Pictures’. ‘Flying pictures’ are nationally renowned for their amazing Christmas in the Park laser events and the recent Celebration of Southland show.

For more information on this exciting spring spectacular call Tamsin Cooper at the Otago Museum on 03 4772372.


‘Discover archaeology’ is an illustrated, glossy bimonthly magazine about the latest discoveries in archaeology and the archaeological sciences. The first issue (Jan/Feb 1999) of the magazine will be available in late December 1998.

The editorial content will include news briefs, feature articles, essays and comments, a forum section and reviews. The editorial staff will strive to provide content that is broad enough for the general reader, but rigorous enough for the scientist. The magazine will be available by individual and institutional subscription.

In addition to full-length articles, the magazine will provide a number of ‘newsbriefs’ split into two sections: ‘Research News’ and ‘Global Report’. If you might be interested in contributing to either of these sections or providing full-length submissions, email For more information see


The second module ‘The Abysmal Adventure’ of the Ocean Voyage 98 Programme is now under way. This module is focused on the Seafloor and includes daily reports by two marine geologists Dr Lionel Carter from NIWA and Dr Bruce Hayward from Auckland University to the Ocean Voyage 98 website

Dr Carter and Dr Hayward are currently on the Ocean Drilling Ship Joides Resolution off the east coast of New Zealand where it is drilling 8 deep sediment cores to determine the history of the world’s oceans and indeed the history of the world’s climate over the last 30 million years.

This week the Joides Resolution is drilling the sea floor at two sites c.500 km and 700 km east of the Chatham Islands. There in 3000 and 4000 m of water they are retrieving continuous core sections down to 500-700 m below the sea floor to study the sedimentary record of the deep Western Boundary Current and the Subtropical Convergence over the last 30 million years.’


Almost half of secondary teachers and a third of primary school teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs according to an NZPA report on research by Massey University College of Education. The least satisfactory aspects of the work related to a lack of support from the Government and community, resourcing, and workload.

The Royal Society and the NZ Association of Science Educators have also expressed concern at the effects of rapid curriculum change and societal expectations of teachers and schools as well as the implications of proposed changes to support for schools.

Members are invited to express any concerns to the Society’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology Education; contact


The CREST scheme holds a very successful function today at the Science Centre and Manawatu Museum where the Hon. Wyatt Creech will present gold awards to four students and Sir Neil Waters will present seven CREST Industry awards.

The CREST scheme, a successful programme developing creativity and innovation in school students, has been sponsored by Massey University for the past eight years. The university is to be commended for its support of this programme over this time.


The following events are some of those listed in our conference database as taking place in New Zealand in the next 3 months. For a full listing see

Urban sustainability workshop -‘What sustainability means in an urban context’, Wellington, 7 October 1998. For further information see or email ] NZ Institute of Surveyors Annual Conference, Palmerston North, 16 – 20 October 1998. Email:

New Zealand Grassland Association Annual Conference, Nelson, 20 – 22 October 1998. Email:

Building a future for women’s health, Auckland, 2 – 3 November 1998. Email:

Leadership priorities for New Zealand science and technology, Wellington, 5 – 6 November 1998. Email:

Environment & Property Rights Conference – Private Rights and Public Benefits, Christchurch, 10 – 11 November 1998. Email:

‘Soil – the earth’s edge’, Gisborne, 16 – 20 November 1998. Email:

Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Annual Conference, Auckland, 20 – 22 November 1998. Email

Ethnobiology: Dialogue between cultures. Forging meaningful partnerships, Whakatane, 23 – 28 November 1998. Email

Australian and New Zealand Ecological Societies Joint Meeting, Dunedin, 24 – 27 November 1998. Email:

Meteorological Society of New Zealand & New Zealand Hydrological Society Joint Conference, Dunedin, 24 – 27 November 1998. Email:

NZ Geological Society/NZ Geophysical Society Conference/AGM, Christchurch, 30 November – 3 December 1998. Contact GSNZ Conference, Dept of Geology, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch


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