Alert Newsletter 719

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1. Join discussion on how science can improve New Zealand

The Transit of Venus Forum is taking place next week from 5-8 June in Gisborne and Tolaga Bay. Hundreds of scientists, iwi representatives, dignitaries and delegates will gather to further Professor Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision of making New Zealand “a place where talent wants to live”.

Topics discussed will include science and prosperity, the emerging Maori economy, using and managing our resources, restoring and enhancing the environment, New Zealand’s connection with the rest of the world and the people of New Zealand, and our greatest resource – our people.

 For those who can’t be a part of the Forum itself there are a number of ways to get involved in the discussion:

  • A live webcast of the Transit of Venus Forum will be available, thanks to the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Anyone with an internet connection can watch discussion at the Forum unfold. Links to the webcast will be available on the Transit of Venus Forum home page.  
  • Pounamu, an online game, gives all New Zealanders a chance to have their say on the issues discussed at the Transit of Venus Forum. It is set in 2022, in a New Zealand where everyone is smart about science and technology. Participants play by posting micro-forecasts (140 characters) of future possibilities and building on, or reshaping other players’ ideas. The game asks: how do we treasure and build on what we already have – land, people, knowledge and connections – with new tools, new capacities, new connections and new ways of thinking to generate prosperity for all? To register and play the game, visit


2. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand – special issue on the 2012 transit of Venus

A special issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand celebrating the 2012 transit of Venus, guest-edited by the late Sir Paul Callaghan and Rebecca Priestley, has now been published.

The issue brings together a collection of articles around the scientific and cultural significance of the transit of Venus which, in 1769, led James Cook and the Endeavour on a Royal Society mission to Tahiti then on to New Zealand. This very special issue of the journal includes a wide range of articles around the transit of Venus and the first contact between Māori and Europeans.

The special issue is free to access until 31 July 2012.


3. Royal Society of New Zealand Council elections

The elections for the three vacant Council positions have now been completed, and the results are:

 VP (Life and Biological Sciences)

Only one nomination was received so  Dr John Caradus FRSNZ , AgResearch, was elected unopposed. 

Two Councillors: 

Six nominations were received. Professor Caroline Saunders and Dr Stephen Goldson FRSNZ, both already serving on the Royal Society Council,  were re-elected by majority vote to the two vacant positions, for 3-year terms.

The term for appointments begins July 1, 2012.


4. IPCC climate change impacts/adaptation assessment  – expert review of first order draft

The first-order draft of the Working Group II volume of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will become available for global expert review on 11 June. The volume covers issues related to observed and projected impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change. Chapter 25 includes impacts and adaptation options for Australia and New Zealand. The full list of chapter titles is available. 

Interested experts are invited to submit review comments on this first-order draft, which will assist the author teams to identify and correct any errors and to make sure that the report is comprehensive and balanced in its treatment of available published scientific information and uncertainties.

If you are interested in reviewing this draft, please contact the Working Group II Technical Support Unit at, who will provide you with details on how to register. Once registered, you will be sent details on how to access the draft on 11 June, and there will be an eight week period during which you can submit review comments.

You do not necessarily need to be a working scientist to qualify as relevant expert; practitioners involved in adaptation decision-making, and who need to draw on scientific information for their decisions, provide important perspectives on impacts and adaptation. Please note though that the draft is strictly confidential and is made available only for the purpose of review, and its content must not be used, cited or distributed in any form. The chapter authors will produce a revised draft following the review period, taking into account the full range of comments they receive. This ‘second order draft’ will then undergo a further round of Government and Expert review.


5. FUSIONZ website for science, technology, humanities jobs

This week, Fusionz has 4 vacancies for jobs. The latest jobs are:

  • Social Science Research Assessor – Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington
  • Research Assistant, University of Otago, South Island
  • PhD Engineering, University of Waikato, International
  • Departmental Science Adviser, Ministry for Primary Industries, North Island

For more information and to list your vacancy:


6. Public talk: ‘Engineering creativity in Silicon Valley, New York, and Christchurch’, 5 June

Dr Craig Nevill-Manning, Engineering Director, Google New York will give a free public lecture.

Past, present and future: Silicon Valley has been a centre of technology innovation for decades. New York recently became the second-largest technology hub in the United States. What lessons do Silicon Valley and New York hold for accelerating the technology industry in Christchurch? From individual entrepreneurs and engineers, to schools and universities, to local and national government, a vibrant technology scene is the result of many actions, large and small. This talk will review some of the success stories and attempt to identify some useful strategies for Christchurch.

Date: Tuesday, 5 June, starting at 6:30pm.
Venue: University of Canterbury, Undercroft (Ground floor of the James Hight Building).
Tickets:FREE, No RSVPs, so please arrive early to be certain of a seat.

For all enquiries, email


7. Branch event: 2012 Hudson Lecture, Wellington, 25 July

The Royal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch is soon to present its 2012 Hudson Lecture, held in honour of George Vernon Hudson (1867 – 1946), a distinguished amateur naturalist and scientist.

The 2012 lecturer is Associate Professor Phil Lester of Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Biological Sciences who will speak on Invasion of the Wasps: Predation, Competition and Conservation Biology.  Phil will point out that invasive species are currently contributing to one of the highest biodiversity extinction rates the world has known. Invasive social wasps form one group of invaders that reach massive densities in New Zealand beech forests – the highest known densities anywhere. Phil will give an overview of invasive species in general, and then examine wasps in New Zealand as a case study. He will conclude by considering our management options for species such as wasps.

Details: Wednesday 25 July, 6-7.15 pm, Pipitea Campus, Lambton Quay, north end. The lecture theatre will be confirmed early July and posted on the RSNZ Wellington Branch Website.


8. Branch event:  ‘Carbon flux to the deep ocean interior in subtropical and sub-Antarctic waters’, 5 June, Nelson

Nelson Science Society hosts a talk by Dr Scott Nodder. Scott is a marine geologist at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), based in Wellington. Since 1989, he has been involved in research investigating Taranaki shelf sedimentology, offshore active faulting, methane seeps, iron cycling, carbon fluxes within marine ecosystems and ocean time-series observations. This talk will provide background to the recent completion of a decade-long project, investigating the linkages between climate drivers, marine productivity and carbon flux to the deep ocean interior (natural carbon sequestration) in subtropical and sub-Antarctic waters, east of New Zealand.

Details: 7.30pm, Tuesday June 5. Venue: A211, NMIT, entrance off Alton St. All welcome. Non-members $2.


9. Branch event: ‘Energy in NZ: The Past, the Present, and the Future’, 6 June, Christchurch

The Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society hosts a talk by Emeritus Professor Arthur Williamson.

The lecture will look at three aspects of New Zealand’s activity in the energy field:

  1. the past – what was done during the oil crises of the 1970s
  2. the current situation looking at our energy demand
  3. the future in terms of what we might do to achieve energy independence and sustainability of supply covering both energy sources and some energy use technologies.

Details: 7:30pm Wednesday 6 June 2012, Room C3 – Central Lecture Block – University of Canterbury. All welcome.

10. Neuro-computing and evolving intelligence 2012 (NCEI’12) conference, 8 June, Auckland

The Knowledge Engineering & Discovery Research Institute (KEDRI), Auckland University of Technology, is hosting the NCEI’12 conference/workshop which will be held on 8 June 2012 at AUT, Duthie Whyte Building, 120 Mayoral Drive, Level 3, WY315.

This is a continuation of a previous conference series in New Zealand – ANNES,established in 1993. This conference aims at promoting research and development activities focused on advanced intelligent computing techniques by providing a vibrant and effective forum across a variety of disciplines. The scope of the conference includes a range of techniques such as Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, Evolutionary Computing, Brain Computer Interfaces, Informatics Theory and Applications, Computational Neuroscience, Neuromorphic computation, Bioinformatics, Pattern Recognition, Data Mining and Health Informatics.

The workshop will publish an edited volume through the Springer Series of Bio- and Neuroinformatics. The NCEI 2012 workshop is organized as a pre-conference workshop held just before the WCCI’12 in Brisbane, Australia (June 10-15, 2012). NCEI ‘ 12 will make the most of the expertise of many colleagues who want to visit KEDRI before the WCCI’12 and also celebrate a decade of the existence of KEDRI.


11. Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures 2012: ‘Ancient Astronomies – Ancient Worlds’

The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Lecture Trust presents Clive Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, UK.

Much is known about ancient astronomical knowledge and practices in places such as ancient China and Babylonia from the evidence contained in their recorded history, but people all over the world strived to make sense of what they saw in the sky long before the written record existed. What can we ever know of this?

As Clive will show, some of the world’s most iconic ancient monuments provide tantalising glimpses of long lost beliefs and practices relating to the sky, although they often have to be interpreted with considerable caution. Taking in examples from many different parts of the world, including his own ongoing field projects in Europe, Peru and Hawaii, Clive will use these insights to build up a broad picture of the diverse ways in which ancient peoples perceived and understood the world—the cosmos—within which they dwelt.

  • Christchurch: Saturday June 9th, 7:30pm, C3 Lecture Room, University of Canterbury.
  • Carterton: Sunday June 17th, 3:00pm, Events Centre, Holloway St, Carterton.
  • Napier: Monday June 18th, 7:00pm, Napier War Memorial Centre, Marine Parade, Napier.
  • Auckland: Tuesday June 19th, 7:30pm, Auckland Museum.

There will be admission charges. Further information may be obtained from


12. New Zealand Geography Conference 2012, 3-6 December, Napier

The biennial conference of the society is meeting in Napier for the first time. The conference theme is ‘Connecting Landscapes’ and the organisers welcome papers from geographers and all others interested in related areas.

Abstracts are now open for electronic submission to

Conference details may be found at

Further questions can be addressed to Professor Mike Roche ( or Dr Matthew Henry (


13. Education Leaders Forum, 29-30 August, Wellington

The 6th annual Education Leaders Forum is being held 29-30 August 2012, CQ Hotel, Wellington.

The ELF12 theme weaves two strands together:

  • Life Skills for Leaders
  • Leadership Skills for Life

How can we open ourselves and our colleagues to deep change at both the personal and professional levels and nurture the resilience of our learning community in a complex world?

To view programme and registration details visit:


14. Transit of Venus 1882

As we prepare to witness the upcoming transit of Venus, it is interesting to reflect on past transits.

The small New Zealand scientific community prepared for the 1882 transit of Venus with great anticipation. A blog item from Te Ara, the online Encyclopedia of New Zealand lists the observers, including the abortive attempt by James Hector to view the transit in Clyde, central Otago.


15. Our Changing World, Thursday 9.00 pm, Radio New Zealand National 101FM

Presented and produced by Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran and Veronika Meduna.

Tom McFadden is a science teacher who is studying Science Communication at the University of Otago; he also loves rapping about science, and has been touring schools sharing his love of science and music, and encouraging students to come up with their own science-based songs to enter into the New Zealand International Science Festival’s ‘Science Idol’ competition.

To avoid leaky building problems in the future, BRANZ’s Mark Bassett is using a test building to study the movement of moisture, air and temperature in walls to see which building materials are weathertight.

Next week’s Transit of Venus will be a re-run of what Captain James Cook saw in 1769 and the last chance for most people to see this rare astronomical phenomenon. Astronomer and science historian William Tobin explains why Venus is taking a similar path across the sun and what astronomers hope to learn from this year’s event.

The Department of Conservation’s Brent Beaven takes Alison Ballance out to Ulva Island, Stewart Island’s prime wildlife destination, to show her the rare birds that now call it home, and explain why they have recently had to eradicate rats from the island – for the second time.

Two science and environment stories air during the week on Afternoons with Jim Mora at 3:35pm, Monday and Thursday. The complete programme is repeated at 1:10am on Sunday mornings.

Website for podcasts and live streams:, 04 474 1910
Twitter: @RNZ_Science


16. Follow the Royal Society of New Zealand on Facebook and Twitter

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