Alert Newsletter 677

1. Royal Society of New Zealand Council elections

Voting for the position of Vice President (Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering) on the Royal Society of New Zealand Council closed on 30 June.

Professor Geoff Austin FRSNZ, University of Auckland, has been voted in as the new Vice President (Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering) for a 3-year term beginning 1 July 2011, replacing Professor Keith Hunter, University of Otago.

Dr David McNamara, GNS Taupo, has been co-opted on to Council to represent younger/emerging scientists.

Mr John Lancashire has been elected unopposed as the Constituent Organisation’s representative on Council for another 3-year term beginning 1 July 2011.

Dr Christine Jasoni, University of Otago, has been elected unopposed as the Regional Constituent Organisation’s representative on Council for a 3-year term beginning 1 July 2011, replacing Associate Professor David Hutchinson.

2. ‘Out of Africa’ lecture series in August, Professor Rebecca Cann of the University of Hawaii

The human journey began 150,000 years ago. The story unites us all. The revolutionary theories of great New Zealand scientist Allan Wilson have inspired two generations of evolutionary biologists.  His theory that we are all descended from one woman who lived in Africa about 10,000 generations ago showed just how closely related humans are.  The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution honours his life by continuing his work. This lecture series is hosted by the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, with support from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

DUNEDIN – Time: 6.00pm, Date: Monday 1 August, St David’s Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, cnr of St David and Castle St

NELSON – 6.00pm, Date: Wednesday 3 August,The Suter Art Gallery, 208 Bridge Street

PALMERSTON NORTH – 7.00pm, Thursday 4 August, Palmerston North Public Library, 4 The Square

WELLINGTON – 5.15pm – 6.15pm, Friday 5 August, Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1, Ground Level, Rutherford Building, next to Railway Station, Victoria University

AUCKLAND – 6.00pm, Monday 8 August,Fisher & Paykel Theatre, Owen Glenn Building, The University of Auckland, 12 Grafton Road

OTAHUHU – 1.40pm- 2.40pm, Tuesday 9 August, a forum for senior biology students from Kings and surrounding colleges by invitation.

Entry is free, but to reserve a seat go to

3. ‘How to Make Life from the Primordial Soup’, 2011 New Zealand Rutherford Lectures

In July, Professor Warren Tate, the 2010 Rutherford Medal winner, will be touring New Zealand delivering a free lecture looking at one of the biggest questions in life “How did we get here?”

Professor Tate is an expert in RNA and how understanding the history of this molecule can help with the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

In his lecture, ‘How to make life from the primordial soup’, he will explain RNA’s role 3-4 billion years ago in the origin of genetic code and protein synthesis, and how this knowledge is benefiting modern medical research.

The 2011 New Zealand Rutherford Lectures are free and open to the general public. Bookings are now open.

  • Nelson – Monday 18 July, 7pm, The Suter Theatre, 208 Bridge Street
  • Dunedin – Wednesday 20 July, 6.30pm Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum, Great King Street
  • Wanaka – Thursday 21 July, 6pm, Lake Wanaka Centre, 89 Ardmore Street
  • Rotorua – Tuesday 26 July, 7.30pm, Concert Chamber, Rotorua Convention Centre, 1170 Fenton Street
  • Palmerston North – Wednesday 27 July, 7.30pm, Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys High School, Featherston Street
  • Auckland – Thursday 28 July, 7pm, Auditorium, Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell

4. Entries open for Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing competition

Writers are being invited to submit their thoughts about the contribution of chemistry to the well-being of our world in this year’s Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing competition. This is New Zealand’s only literary award for science writing, and carries cash prizes of $2500 for each of the non-fiction and fiction categories. The winning entries will be published in the New Zealand Listener.

The theme for this year was chosen to celebrate the 2011 International Year of Chemistry. Prize-winning poet and fiction writer, Bill Manhire, after whom the competition is named, says: “This year our muse is a quote from Vincent O’Sullivan – ‘I unhem creation a little, to work out the stitch’.

“Vincent wrote this about Marie Curie’s work on radiation 100 years ago. We think it will inspire writers to consider how chemistry underpins every part of our world and what society does with this knowledge.”

Entry forms can be found in last week’s Listener Magazine and on the Royal Society of New Zealand website. The first 100 entries win a copy of the book “Are Angels OK?” the anthology in which Vincent O’Sullivan’s quote appears. An e-book of all past winning entries will shortly be available from the Royal Society of New Zealand website.

Closing date for entries is 9 September 2011. For more information –

5. Writing for science course, Victoria University, October 2011

Are you a scientist wanting to learn to write in an engaging and accessible style? Are you a creative fiction or nonfiction writer wanting to write about science? This course, presented in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand, combines practical writing sessions and discussion of your own written work with examination of the issues involved in science writing.

Dave Armstrong has written extensively for screen and stage. He won the fiction category of the 2008 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing. He has worked at Te Papa for several science-based exhibitions.

The course runs from 10am–4:00pm, Saturdays 1, 8, 15 October. Fee $250 ($225 early bird for enrolments received two weeks before course start date)

Course number is 11C029A. More information available at

6. FUSIONZ Science Jobs

This week, Fusionz has 2 vacancies for jobs. The latest jobs are:

  • Precision Agriculture Research Manager: South Island
  • Ion Beam Scientist: Wellington

For more information and to list your vacancy visit

7. David Rhoades represented NZ at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics General Assembly

David Rhoades, Principal Scientist at GNS, attended the IUGG General Assembly in Melbourne as the Royal Society of New Zealand’s nominated official delegate to the IUGG Council on behalf of New Zealand. The IUGG is growing, with the inclusion of Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Georgia, Greece, and Macedonia. Matters discussed included the IUGG’s support for new gravity and magnetic satellites to measure the Earth’s gravity and magnetic fields, and the standardisation of glacier and snow measurement terminology. The next General Assembly is to be held in Prague on 2015.

8. NZ Climate Change Research Institute Seminar Series, 15 July 2011, 12:30 – 1:30, Government Buildings LT 2, Wellington

The next lecture in the series is ‘The Russian Heat Wave and other recent Climate Extremes’ by Dr Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.

Dr Kevin Trenberth is from New Zealand and obtained his Sc.D. in meteorology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessments of Climate Change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and shared their 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.  He has also played a major role in the World Climate Research Programme and chairs the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment scientific steering group.

The venue is Government Buildings LT2.

9. Tauranga lecture looks at potential of marine biotechnology, 20 July

What are the challenges and opportunities facing marine, or ‘blue’, biotechnology? The University of Waikato Faculty of Science and Engineering is hosting Marcel Jaspars, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen, who will give a public lecture in Tauranga next week. Marine organisms have developed complex biochemical machinery to protect themselves and cope with changing environments and scientists are using these findings to generate innovative biomedicinal and agrichemical leads. Diverse marine environments, such as the Bay of Plenty, offer considerable research opportunities, and Professor Jaspars will explore the issues surrounding marine biotechnology based on his research of natural products, particularly those from marine organisms. He will shed light on how New Zealand can realise its potential to make a global contribution. Author of more than 100 research papers and reviews, and consultant for several UK marine biotechnology companies, Professor Jaspars recently established the Marine Biodiscovery Centre, the first interdisciplinary centre of its kind in the UK. The lecture will be held on Wednesday 20 July, from 6.30pm-7.30pm at the Bongard Centre, lecture theatre 106, 200 Cameron Road, Tauranga. Contact: Millie Freeman, 07 577 0620 ext 7522, or

10. Lectures to explore the genetic revolution, 20, 25, 26 July, Albany, Palmerston North, Wellington

The ways genetics can transform healthcare and medicine will be discussed at a lecture series featuring one of the world’s leading researchers. Professor Peter Donnelly, of the University of Oxford, will present the Sir Neil Waters Distinguished Lecture at each Massey campus this month. The genetic revolution: opportunities and challenges will look at how the human genome project has changed the face of healthcare.

Professor Donnelly is director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and Professor of Statistical Science at the University of Oxford. His early research focused on mathematical and statistical problems in genetics, but over time he has become more and more involved in the science itself. He has played central roles in a number of major collaborations, including the International HapMap project, the successor to the Human Genome Project which studied the patterns of genetic variation in global populations, and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortia, which he chairs. He is recognised internationally as a superb speaker. Reserve tickets here:

The 2011 Sir Neil Waters Distinguished Lectures dates:

  • Wednesday 20 July, 7pm: Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatre, Albany Campus
  • Monday 25 July, 5.30pm: Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
  • Tuesday 26 July, 7pm: Theatrette, Wellington Campus

11. Lecture by Professor Robert Winston, Wellington 2 August

The Englishman who brought us television series like “Child of Our Time” and “The Human Body” will deliver this year’s Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture – which also marks the 90th anniversary of the Nelson science Institute. Whilst this lecture in Nelson is booked out, Professor Winston will also present a second lecture at the Opera House in Wellington on Tuesday 2 August, 2011 co-hosted by Liggins Institute and Cawthron Institute. This second lecture is titled ‘Bad Ideas: Will our best technology finish us off?’ You are advised to arrive early to secure a seat.

Professor Robert Winston, who is probably best known for presenting many BBC television series including Superhuman, the Secret Life of Twins, Child of Our Time, Human Instinct and The Human Body, has achieved international prominence as an expert in human fertility. A medical doctor, IVF pioneer, scientist, television presenter, former MP, and life peer, Professor Winston is also the author of a string of popular science books. His latest, ‘Bad Ideas?’ tackles the dark side of technology.

12. Two-part lecture, ‘South Island Earthquakes and the Alpine Fault Line’ and ‘Vanishing Ice Sheets – Antarctica in a Warming World’, 3 Aug, 5.30 – 8.00pm, Nelson

Victoria University of Wellington invites you to a free public lecture by Professor Tim Stern from the School of Geography, Environment & Earth Sciences and Dr Nancy Bertler from Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre.

Tim will be talking about the South Islands Alpine Fault and the faults beneath the Canterbury region.  Nancy will be talking about how climate change is affecting Antarctica and accelerating loss of ice sheets.

Refreshments will be served at 6.30 pm between the two parts of the lecture being held at the Rutherford Hotel. If you would like to attend, please email with ‘Earthquake’ in the subject line or phone 04-463 6700 by Friday 29 July.

13. Geosciences 2011 conference, 27 Nov – 1 Dec, Nelson

Registrations are open for the Geoscience Society of New Zealand annual conference being held in Nelson from 27 Nov – 1 Dec, 2011. The Geosciences 2011 conference will showcase the broad range of excellent geological and geophysical research that is being undertaken in New Zealand.

The conference will begin with an icebreaker on the evening of Sunday 27 November. Science sessions (posters and oral presentations) will be held on Monday 28, Wednesday 30 Nov, and Thursday 1 Dec. A wide range of day field trips will be offered on Tuesday 29 Nov. More information at

14. Our Changing World, Tonight 9.00 pm, Radio New Zealand National

Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran and Veronika Meduna, email Tel (04) 474 1910.

Ruth Beran goes back to the University of Otago to speak with Warren Tate about his work on HIV, how it may lead to a better understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome, and meets Eiren Sweetman who is looking for diagnostic biomarkers for the disease.

In part two of the Kermadec Islands series, Alison Ballance joins Department of Conservation botanist Peter de Lange for a walk on Raoul Island to find out about its native vegetation.

Lisa Matisoo-Smith, a biological anthropologist at the University of Otago, recently showed that Polynesian chickens made it to America before Columbus. She discusses with Veronika Meduna how her current project on ancient DNA from human bones excavated on an island off the Chilean coast could provide conclusive evidence that Polynesians reached America before Europeans.

Later this week the University of Otago ship Polaris heads to Auckland Island for a winter research trip. Before it steams south Alison Ballance catches up with Trudi Webster and Will Rayment to find out about their research projects on the acoustics, photo identification and population modelling of southern right whales.

Shorter science, health and environment features also air during Afternoons with Jim Mora at 3.45 p.m., Monday to Thursday. The programme is repeated at 1.10 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

You can download a podcast or listen to streaming audio of programmes you’ve missed in the complete programme archive at: