Rutherford Discovery Fellows 2016

10 new Rutherford Discovery Fellowships awarded to rising stars of research

Ten of New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid-career researchers have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships for 2016.

The Fellowships foster the development of future research leaders by providing funding of up to $800,000 each over five years to cover salary and research costs. The funding is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The selection decision was informed by an independent panel, following a two stage assessment process.

The new Fellows for 2016 are:

  • Dr Baptiste Auguie, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: “Light and chirality at the nanoscale”
  • Dr Federico Baltar, University of Otago, for research entitled: “What makes ‘normal’ normal? Alternative microbial carbon and energy acquisition mechanisms in the neglected high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) areas of the ocean”
  • Dr Adam Hartland, University of Waikato, for research entitled: “Unlocking the karst record: quantitative proxies of past climates from speleothems”
  • Dr Huw Horgan, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: “Accelerating Ice – The Role of Water in the Flow of Ice Sheets”
  • Dr Yoshihiro Kaneko, GNS Science, for research entitled: “Structural controls on earthquake behaviour in the Hikurangi subduction mega-thrust?
  • Dr Jenny Malmstrom, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: “Signals to cells when and where they are needed?
  • Dr Duncan McMillan, University of Canterbury, for research entitled: “Biomembrane nanotechnologies for exploring pathogen respiratory adaptation to identify and develop novel antibiotics?
  • Dr Jeremy Owen, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: “Harnessing the biosynthetic potential of uncultivated microbes for the discovery of new antibiotics”
  • A/Professor Nicole Roughan, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: “Jurisprudence without Borders: A Pluralist Theory of Law”
  • Dr Virginia Toy, University of Otago, for research entitled: “Weaving the Earth’s Weak Seams: Manifestations and mechanical consequences of rock fabric evolution in active faults and shear zones”
rutherford-2016_b

A collage of the 2016 Rutherford Discovery Fellows and their research. Clockwise from top left: Adam Hartland sampling speleothems; Nicole Roughan and a Globe illustrating the International aspect of her research programme; Duncan McMillan; Federico Baltar; Jenny Malmstrom; Yoshihiro Kaneko (photo by Margaret Low, GNS Science); Baptiste Auguie and a helix structure; Huw Horgan (photo from Gerry Keating, VUW Photographic Services); and Virginia Toy and a section of the Alpine Fault. Center: Jeremy Owen (photo credits to Victoria University of Wellington)

Details of the Fellows’ Research programmes

Dr Baptiste Auguiéauguie

Victoria University of Wellington, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences          

Light and chirality at the nanoscale

 

Biography

Dr Baptiste Auguié is a physicist specialised in nano-optics, the interaction of light with nano-structured materials. He studied physics and engineering in France and Canada, before undertaking a PhD in 2005 with Prof William Barnes at the University of Exeter, UK, with a thesis focused on the optical properties of gold nanoparticles. Noble metals such as gold and silver can be engineered to exhibit unique optical characteristics with enhanced light-matter interaction that finds potential applications in ultra-sensitive molecular detection and novel optical functions. A passion for this subject motivated him in 2010 to join the colloidal synthesis group of Prof Luis Liz-Marzán in Spain, where he participated in the pioneering exploration of metal nanoparticles assembled into helical structures. He first came to New Zealand in 2013 to join the Raman spectroscopy group of late Prof Pablo Etchegoin and Prof Eric Le Ru at Victoria University in Wellington, where he investigated optical spectroscopy techniques and original approaches for the theoretical modelling of light scattering. After another post-doctoral position with Prof Alejandro Fainstein in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, he came back to Wellington in 2015 to become a New Zealand resident and pursue novel ideas at the intersection of nano-optics and spectroscopy, with post-doctoral positions at the University of Wellington, and at the Photon Factory in Auckland.

Research

A cursory glance at our shoes, or an awkward hand-shake with someone offering us their left hand, vividly illustrate a fundamental property of nature: chirality. Chirality refers to the characteristic dissymmetry of objects that cannot be superimposed with their mirror-image, such as our hands, feet, or the helix of DNA. Even though chiral molecules of opposite handedness are made of the same atoms, share the same physical and chemical properties, their interaction with other chiral entities can be dramatically different. Much like trying to fit a left foot into the right shoe, chiral molecules generally interact and assemble into larger structures only if they have compatible handedness. As such, chirality is central to our understanding of life at the molecular level, and permeates all length scales, from smaller molecules to DNA, viruses and bacteria, all the way to macroscopic patterns of more familiar experience such as sea shells or ferns. Likewise, chirality is key to the design of pharmaceuticals, as many drugs require a specific molecular handedness to have the desired effect on living bodies; their chiral alter ego might be inactive, or worse, a poison.

Ever since its discovery, our understanding of chirality has relied heavily on optical methods for detection and characterisation. Light interacts with chiral materials in subtle ways – some of which remain largely unexplored or poorly understood –, and the chiral signature is generally very weak, requiring large amounts of material to detect a specific handedness. This limitation to bulk samples has hindered the development of chiro-optical methods toward ultra-sensitive detection.

To overcome the intrinsic weakness of chiral interactions between light and molecules, Dr Auguié proposes to harness novel artificial structures comprising metallic nanoparticles. Metals such as gold and silver scatter light very efficiently, and can enhance light-matter interactions at the nanoscale by many orders of magnitude. This project will explore chiral spectroscopies of molecule–metal nanoparticle assemblies, where the light scattered by such chiral samples will be analysed as a function of both wavelength and optical rotation. Such techniques will allow unprecedented access to chirality at the nano and molecular scales, with strongly enhanced optical signals. These fundamental advances will guide the design of novel sensors with great potential for analytical applications, particularly in the life sciences.

 

 

Dr Federico BaltarDr Federico Baltar

University of Otago, Department of Marine Science         

What makes ‘normal’ normal? Alternative microbial carbon and energy acquisition mechanisms in the neglected high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) areas of the ocean

 

Biography

Dr Federico Baltar is a lecturer in Marine Science at University of Otago. He completed a PhD in Oceanography between the Royal Netherland Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ, Holland) and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain), for which he received the Outstanding PhD Thesis Award. He then moved to Sweden to undertake a three year postdoctoral position at the Linnaeus University Center for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial Model Systems. His research in microbial oceanography integrates marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. His research group mainly focuses on the role of microbes on the marine biogeochemical cycles by looking at the factors that control microbial diversity and function, trying to follow a multidisciplinary approach with the aim to draw connections between different scientific disciplines. He has received different research-related awards, including the European Geosciences Union (EGU) Award for Outstanding Young Scientist in Biogeosciences (2016).

Research

Microorganisms in the ocean account for a very large part of the total biomass of life on Earth. These tiny powerhouses produce more than half of the entire global oxygen supply and, in doing so, use up a large proportion of human-generated CO2, a greenhouse gas that is accelerating global warming. To understand how marine ecosystems will respond to climate change we must first understand the mechanisms by which marine microbes work.

The majority of the research done in this field has been conducted in areas of the ocean considered ‘normal’, where primary production is not limited by trace metal availability (trace metals are required to form many important enzymes), and where the production of organic matter is enough to support the consumption of consumers. However, around 30% of the surface ocean lack trace metals (so called High Nutrient Low Chlorophyll, HNLC, regions). As this lack of trace metals inhibits primary production, the question is how do consumers of primary production are able to thrive in these HNLC environments.

Dr Baltar hypothesises that microbes in these regions might use alternative pathways for carbon and energy acquisition, and suggests to study this at the Subtropical Frontal Zone – a boundary between ‘normal’ and HNLC ocean regions located at our doorstep off the South Island. Thanks to the local ocean currents here, the physical distance between normal and HNLC ocean regions is minimal, which allows for the sampling of normal and HNLC regions over the cause of a day. The area therefore provides an optimal system to study the functional strategies of marine microbes in HNLC regions compared to ‘normal’ regions.

He will combine cutting-edge genomics techniques with experimentation to reveal the unique properties that enable marine microbes to thrive in HNLC environments and which microbes are the main drivers of these processes. By identifying the microbial mechanisms of action and their influence we will be able to understand the role of these magnificent marine microbes and better constrain the effect of climate change and human actions on the marine ecosystems.

 

Dr Adam HartlandDr Adam Hartland

University of Waikato, Environmental Research Institute

Unlocking the karst record: quantitative proxies of past climates from speleothems

 

Biography

Dr Adam Hartland is a geochemist specialising in the interaction between natural nanoparticles and trace elements in soil, water and minerals. His overall goal is to understand the role of these chemical processes in controlling trace element signatures in cave carbonates, thus allowing him to develop quantitative proxies of past climate. Adam has a long-held interest in the subsurface which he traces back to an undergraduate project studying groundwater food-webs under New Zealand’s Canterbury plains. He completed a PhD in speleothem science with Professor Ian Fairchild at the University of Birmingham, and a postdoctoral fellowship in groundwater geochemistry at the University of New South Wales. Adam is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato and leads the Waikato Environmental Geochemistry Group (www.wegeochem.com).

Research

The reconstruction of climate variations through earlier geological periods (so called ‘palaeoclimate records’) is vital for assessing ongoing climate change and societal vulnerability with regard to both extreme events, and the long-term climate reorganization associated with greenhouse gas emissions.

Built up over thousands of years, crystal deposits (also called speleothems) in caves, such as stalactites and stalagmites, provide rich archives of climatic events. This information is stored in ‘isotopic records’ and other low-abundance ‘trace’ components captured during crystal formation. Isotope ratios express small variations in the abundance of heavy (rare) to light (common) forms of chemical elements. Speleothems provide some of the best terrestrial archives of past environmental conditions, yet the existing state of knowledge remains hampered by the complexity of speleothem isotopic records. Consequently, stable isotope-based paleoclimate reconstructions from speleothems remain essentially qualitative. To fully take advantage of these records, it is necessary to develop and improve methods to extract and calibrate isotopic records of past climates.

In this project, Dr Hartland will develop new chemical and physical environmental proxies to study changes in the important climate parameters of rainfall and temperature. These proxies will allow the forcing factors that influence traditional but ambiguous tracers to be distinguished from each other, and quantitative climate reconstructions to be developed. The project combines geochemical, magnetic and statistical approaches, allowing the proxies to be verified quickly and enabling swift development of quantitative models. In particular, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship will enable him to develop a new proxy of drip-point discharge based on trace metals transported by dissolved organic matter, which will underpin the separation of climatic drivers in isotope records. These novel proxies will be tested using Australasian speleothems, producing new and detailed records of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Southern Annular Mode over the last 10,000 years, thereby expanding our understanding of Southern Hemisphere climate systems.

 

 

Dr Huw Horgan (photo from Gerry Keating, VUW Photographic Services)

Dr Huw Horgan (photo from Gerry Keating, VUW Photographic Services)

Dr Huw Horgan

Victoria University of Wellington, Antarctic Research Centre       

Accelerating Ice – The Role of Water in the Flow of Ice Sheets

Biography

Dr Horgan is a geophysical glaciologist who combines remote sensing and applied geophysical methods to study how glaciers and ice sheets flow. After completing an undergraduate degree and MSc at Victoria University of Wellington, Huw was awarded a Fulbright Graduate Award and completed his PhD at Penn State University in their renown Ice and Climate Exploration group. Since beginning work in the Antarctic, Huw has undertaken 14 ice sheet expeditions over 12 field seasons. Underpinning Huw’s research is the use of over-snow geophysical methods. These methods image within and beneath glaciers and ice sheets, and can be used to reveal the controls on fast ice-flow. Returning to New Zealand in 2010, Huw became a Research Fellow in Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre and now has a shared position as a Senior Lecturer with the Antarctic Research Centre and the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

Research

Glaciers and ice sheets will be the largest contributor to sea level rise over the coming century. Yet, there are still many unanswered questions with regard to how much, and how fast, change will occur. Central to this issue is how ice sheets flow into the ocean. Changes in ice sheet flow are a key uncertainty in future sea level projections, and recent estimates have shown that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections may be underestimating the contribution that Antarctica is likely to make.

In the case of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, ice flow is dominated by ice streams hundreds of kilometers long and tens of kilometers wide, which feed ice into floating ice shelves. The flow of these ice streams is known to change rapidly, resulting in significant changes to rates of sea level rise. One of the primary controls on the flow of ice streams is how they slide over, and deform, their underlying geology. Central to these processes is the presence of liquid water beneath the ice, which exists due to the insulating effect of the overlying ice, frictional heating during ice deformation, and geothermal heat flow. This liquid water can lubricate the base of the ice, smoothing over rough patches and making sediment more easily deformable. Ice streams and glaciers have been observed to accelerate and deccelerate in response to the redistribution of water beneath the ice.

In this research program, Dr Horgan will address the quantity, distribution, and role of water beneath glaciers and ice sheets using a combination of remote sensing, and oversnow geophysical surveying. In the initial stages of the project the distribution of water beneath Antarctica will be mapped from space using elevation and imagery. More detailed knowledge will be provided by oversnow geophysical studies that image within and beneath the ice. This project will also include the opportunity to access and directly sample the base of ice sheet, providing critical observations where they are needed most. Ultimately, by constraining the role that water plays in ice sheet flow, this research will lead to better informed models, resulting in better estimates of sea level rise.

 

Dr Yoshihiro Kaneko (photo by Margaret Low, GNS Science)

Dr Yoshihiro Kaneko (photo by Margaret Low, GNS Science)

Dr Yoshihiro Kaneko               

GNS Science, Tectonophysics        

Structural controls on earthquake behaviour in the Hikurangi subduction mega-thrust

 

Biography

Dr Yoshihiro Kaneko is a seismologist at GNS Science. His research focuses on understanding and quantifying earthquake source processes and their relation to crustal deformation and seismic hazard. He completed his PhD in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology in 2009 and was a Scripps postdoctoral fellow at the University of California – San Diego before moving to New Zealand in 2013. Since then, he has established the use of high performance computing capability for earthquake research at GNS Science and has been conducting numerical simulations of seismic wave propagation and earthquake rupture. This has opened up new research directions in New Zealand, as reflected by both the 2015 Marsden Fast-Start and 2015 Natural Hazards Research Platform projects for which he is Principal Investigator. He is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth.

Research

The Hikurangi subduction zone beneath the North Island of New Zealand, where the oceanic Hikurangi Plateau is subducting beneath the continental crust of the Australian Plate, is capable of producing destructive mega-thrust earthquakes like the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake in Japan. Two decades of geodetic monitoring has revealed that the large portion of the Hikurangi plate interface (i.e., the fault between the two tectonic plates) is currently locked, implying that stress is building up for the next large mega-thrust earthquake. However, there is a dramatic variation in the degree of locking over the length of the fault, with complex patterns of seismic and aseismic (earthquake-free) fault slip.  Scientists have observed similar patterns of mega-thrust slip behaviour at many other Pacific-Rim subduction zones. However, the underlying mechanisms controlling the variability in fault slip behaviour at Hikurangi, as well as at other subduction zones, are not well understood.

With this project, Dr Kaneko will use state-of-the-art seismological techniques and numerical modeling, combined with existing and new seismic datasets, to shed light on the underlying mechanism of complex mega-thrust slip behaviour at subduction plate boundaries.  In particular, he will image details of the 3D structure and geometry of the Hikurangi mega-thrust region using a technique called seismic tomography. Using the gained knowledge, he will then develop a dynamic model of crustal deformation that can reproduce a range of fault slip behavior at the Hikurangi subduction zone. This work will lead to a much improved understanding of earthquake behavior in the Hikurangi subduction zone, which will result in New Zealand being better prepared for the next megathrust earthquake.

Given the coverage of existing and proposed seismometer networks, well-recorded earthquakes, and the shallowness (12-25 km depth) of the subduction interface beneath the network, the Hikurangi region offers a unique opportunity for seismological investigation of the detailed material properties in the plate-locking ‘transition zone’. Well-resolved structural and material properties combined with advanced physics-based models of seismic and aseismic fault slip will provide critical insights needed to answer the globally significant question: what controls the spatial variation of mega-thrust slip behaviour and the spatial extent of large subduction earthquakes.

 

Dr Jenny Malstrom

Dr Jenny Malmstrom

The University of Auckland, School of Chemical Sciences

Signals to cells when and where they are needed

 

Biography

Dr Jenny Malmström joined the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Auckland as a lecturer in 2016. She is also an associate investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute and an investigator in the MBIE funded Biocide toolbox project. She received her MSc in Bioengineering from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (2004) and a Ph.D. in Nanoscience from the University of Aarhus, Denmark (2010). Her PhD project studied cell adhesion to protein nano-patterns and was supervised by Assoc. Prof. Duncan Sutherland. From Denmark she moved to Auckland, where she joined the School of Chemical Sciences (UoA) as a post-doctoral research fellow. Dr Malmstrom’s interdisciplinary research is concentrating on characterising and understanding material-biomolecule interactions and the influence of surface properties that underpin cellular behaviour at surfaces.  This detailed understanding can be applied to emerging and exciting areas such as the creation of smart materials to help understand and control cellular behaviour.

Research

Stem cells refer to biological cells with the ability to renew themselves and the potential to develop into various specialised cells with a particular biological function – a process termed differentiation. For this reason, stem cells have a tremendous potential for medical therapies, but it is necessary to better understand the signals that direct their development before this potential can be fully utilised. Before use in patients, stem cells must be multiplied and often need to be differentiated, to ensure sufficient number of cells. In our bodies, the environment around cells is vastly different to that in a cell culture dish. Cellular behaviour is tightly regulated through many coupled factors, including signalling molecules and mechanical properties of the surrounding tissue.

In this research programme, Dr Malmstrom will develop novel techniques that she can use to tease out the individual contribution of some of these factors. In particular, she will develop an “artificial tissue surface” with the ability to release specialised stem cell “growth factors”. The surface will be constructed in such a way that cells will have to physically stick to the surface (a process termed adhesion), in order to gain access to the growth factor. This mimics the behaviour in the body, where cells have to release these potent molecules by pulling on, or degrading their surroundings. As growth factors have been shown to act close to cell adhesion points, this mode of presentation is expected to reveal synergistic effects between cell adhesion force and growth factor signalling. By studying cells in the laboratory, it is therefore possible for Dr Malmstrom to separate these effects to better understand the individual and combined contributions of growth factors and cell adhesion to certain cellular behaviours.

 

 

dm-portrait-imageDr Duncan McMillan           

University of Canterbury, Department of Applied Chemistry        

Biomembrane nanotechnologies for exploring pathogen respiratory adaptation to identify and develop novel antibiotics

 

Biography

Dr Duncan McMillan is a multidisciplinary scientist who studies membrane bioenergetics and currently holds an Assistant Professorship at The University of Tokyo. His PhD at the University of Otago focused on extremophilic bacterial adaptions to make energy. Due to the complexity of the membrane-bound bioenergetic systems involved he realized that new technologies were required. Since then he moved to the University of Leeds (UK) to study biophysical approaches such as bioelectrochemistry, artificial membranes architectures and single-molecule microscopy. Then to Friedrich-Schiller University (Germany), and most recently to The University of Tokyo (Japan) to take up a long-term JSPS international fellowship where he to studied single-molecule microscopy of the ATP synthase – nature’s smallest molecular motor. In conducting these studies he realized that these novel platforms used in this study represent a broad-spectrum toolbox which can be applied to the study of bioenergetics of all life, from inhibitor development for pathogens and methane-generating ruminant organisms, to energy capture by plant photosystems and understanding mechanisms of microbes to aid in bioremediation of industrial waste sites.

Research

The golden age of antibiotics and vaccination has seen a vast reduction in the morbidity and mortality caused by pathogenic microbes. But this time of relative safety has come to an end due to overuse, and the growing threat of antibiotic resistance is widely recognized, with cases now common in New Zealand and the Asia-pacific area. When a pathogen infects its host, the environment changes for the pathogen, and it is essential for survival that it adapts its method of generating energy (i.e. its use of ‘respiratory enzymes’ – the engine-room supporting pathogen life). Respiratory adaptation occurs at the cell membrane, where the cell meets the environment. Given the essential nature of respiratory enzymes for life, and the unique nature of some microbial enzymes, they are ideal targets to inhibit pathogen growth. However, the functions of such enzyme systems as a whole are poorly understood in their native membrane environment. Furthermore, the rapid rate of bacterial adaptation to environment has not been met by scientific innovation. Classical techniques rely on the study of isolated enzymes in solution with the cell membrane itself being ignored. Non-native, water-soluble forms of the substrates of these enzymes are often used out of biological context, leading to inconsistencies between laboratory data and down-stream clinical observations.

During the tenure of this fellowship Dr McMillan will be using novel macro- and nano-artificial membrane methodologies together with bioelectrochemistry to study respiratory enzymes in a native membrane environment. These techniques will identify the fundamental mechanisms of how pathogens are able to gain energy for growth under various physiological conditions, and the complex interplay of the many enzymes associated with this process. This understanding will enable the development of a ‘in membrane’ screen for inhibitors of respiratory enzymes known to be essential for pathogenesis by analyzing the whole respiratory system in its native state.

 

Dr Jeremy Owen

Dr Jeremy Owen                                

Victoria University of Wellington, School of Biological Sciences   

Harnessing the biosynthetic potential of uncultivated microbes for the discovery of new antibiotics

 

Biography

Dr Owen completed his PhD at Victoria University of Wellington in 2010, where he studied the genetics and enzymology of bacterial natural product biosynthesis. From 2011-2015 he was a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules at the Rockefeller University in New York City. During this time, he developed approaches for discovering new drug candidates from bacteria that cannot be readily cultivated. Dr Owen returned to New Zealand funded by a Marsden Fast Start grant, and was appointed senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington in 2016. He currently leads a research group that is focused on discovering new antibiotic candidates to combat drug resistant bacterial infections. The particular focus of his laboratory is the use of DNA sequencing and synthetic biological approaches to access compounds that are produced by bacteria that cannot be grown in a laboratory.

Research

Recent developments in DNA sequencing technology have greatly enriched our understanding of the microbial world. By directly sequencing DNA extracted from communities of environmental microbes, we have been able to observe a hidden majority of microbial species that cannot be readily grown in the laboratory. We now know that the soil beneath our feet, and the oceans that surround us are home to a far greater diversity of microbial species than we had previously imagined. In the case of soil, just a single gram can contain more than 10,000 unique bacterial species, the vast majority of which have never been cultivated in a laboratory. Many of these uncultivated microbes harbor the potential to produce as yet unknown chemical entities that they use to kill competing species in their environments. We are surrounded by new antibiotics that are waiting to be discovered with the right approach.

With this fellowship Dr Owen will use DNA sequencing and synthetic biology to explore the biochemistry of New Zealand’s uncultivated microbes. By extracting DNA directly from complex microbial communities and storing this as a library of cloned fragments, he and his research team will be able to directly access the genes that act as blueprints for producing novel chemical entities, without being limited by the need to cultivate the host bacteria. By delivering these instruction sets to a laboratory host that is able to read and execute them, they will generate diverse collections of new biologically active small molecules that have the potential to be developed into medicines. A particular focus of this research will be the discovery new lead compounds in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs.

 

 

nicole-work-profileA/Professor Nicole Roughan              

The University of Auckland, Faculty of Law           

Jurisprudence without Borders: A Pluralist Theory of Law

 

Biography

Dr Nicole Roughan is a graduate of Yale Law School, Victoria University of Wellington, and the University of Auckland. Nicole is currently an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, where she is also Deputy-Director of the Centre for Legal Theory. Nicole has formerly held appointments at the University of Cambridge, Trinity College, Cambridge, the University of Kent at Brussels, and Victoria University of Wellington. As a student, Nicole was a recipient of a Fulbright Graduate Student Award, and a NZ Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Award. Nicole’s research field is the philosophy of law, where she has a particular interest in the interactions of legal systems and orders, and the resulting challenges for understanding law’s authority. She is the author of Authorities: Conflicts, Cooperation, and Transnational Legal Theory (Oxford, 2013) as well as articles published in leading law journals and commissioned book chapters. Nicole is currently working on a new book, Officials, which examines the centrality of the idea of the legal official to both the existence and legitimacy of law’s authority. She also has collaborative projects under way exploring the theoretical foundations of indigenous laws, and the methodologies of non-state legal theory.

Research

The field of legal theory (jurisprudence) is in the midst of a revival of attention to the analysis and justification of law beyond the law of sovereign states. Such ‘pluralist jurisprudence’ investigates the existence, operation, and implications of non-state legal phenomena such as international law, transnational law, regional law, indigenous law, customary law, and religious law. This emerging field seeks to explain and evaluate the interactions of these diverse legal systems – if they are systems – with each other and with state law. Such analysis raises questions about the role of borders – can they justifiably limit legal jurisdictions, political communities, and legal systems, in ways that cut them off from one another? If not, then what are the evaluative and analytical tools that legal theorists and jurists need, in order to examine law between or beyond borders? 

With this Fellowship, Dr Roughan seeks to build a fully-worked out pluralist theory of law, a ‘jurisprudence without borders’, which focuses squarely on the possibility that a theory of law neither needs nor should have borders around the phenomena that it explains. She argues that such a theory must be able to explain the normativity of law (the conditions under which law is binding), law’s institutionalization (the forms, institutions, and systems thorough which law operates upon subjects), law’s coercive enforcement (the extent to which law can justifiably coerce subjects), and importantly, law’s role in the pursuit of a just political structure. These are among the core questions addressed by philosophers of law, but they have yet to be integrated, systematically, into an account that starts with the puzzles posed by legal pluralism. The challenge here is not simply to identify the impact of legal pluralism upon the core questions in philosophy of law, rather it is to address these questions systematically and comprehensively, in a way that deals adequately with challenges from theories outside of the core canon of the subject.

While the project speaks to an international audience of legal theorists, and poses a foundational challenge to much of the received wisdom in the canon of jurisprudence, it also has both resonance and potential practical implications for legal and constitutional debates in New Zealand, for the design of legal/political institutions, and for substantive law reform. In particular, the New Zealand context features local legal pluralism, both in the form of tikanga Maori’s interaction with state law, and deep interactions between New Zealand’s legal system and the international and transnational legal orders.

 

 

Dr Virginia Toy         image1-1             

University of Otago, Department of Geology      

Weaving the Earth’s Weak Seams: Manifestations and mechanical consequences of rock fabric evolution in active faults and shear zones

 

Biography

Dr Virginia Toy is a Senior Lecturer in Geology at the University of Otago. She obtained her PhD from the University of Otago, after which she undertook a postdoctoral position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University, USA. She has been a visiting researcher and lecturer at a number of international Institutions, most notably the University of Liverpool (UK), GFZ-Potsdam (Germany), Hokkaido University (Japan), and Yachay Tech University (Ecuador). She is involved globally in research initiatives in the fields of structural geology, tectonics, geohazards and geoengineering – employing a multi-scale observational approach, validated by experiments and numerical models, to understanding the physical behaviours of Earth Materials. She is recognised internationally for her involvement in Continental and Oceanic Scientific Drilling of active fault systems.

Research

Fault zone rocks, particularly those that delineate tectonic plate boundaries, have distinct structural fabrics and mineralogy that give them unique mechanical properties. They form through multiple cycles of shearing, and alteration caused by fluid-rock interactions. The unique mechanical properties affect the rate and amount of slip faults accommodate during earthquakes – determining whether a particular fault will slip in a ‘slow slip’ event which causes no damage, or generate a huge and damaging quake. Fault rocks’ structural fabrics also influence movement of fluids within the Earth, affecting geothermal circulation and mineral deposition. Finally, they result in unique geophysical signatures that are extensively employed in mineral exploration targeting.

Fault and ductile shear zone rocks can be revealed at Earth’s surface due to uplift; this is the case in New Zealand’s Alpine Fault zone, where exposed rocks are frozen equivalents of those presently deforming at depths of up to 35km. Drilling into active faults such as this, and collecting samples from the drilled hole(s) provides an opportunity to analyse changes in structural fabrics and mineralogy of the fault zone rocks as they are progressively bought to the surface. In this project, Dr Toy proposes to use new electron microscopic methods to analyse the very fine structure of fault rocks from outcrops, scientific boreholes, and experiments. In addition, she will use innovative high pressure-temperature rock deformation apparatuses and computational modelling to measure geophysical properties and simulate deformation processes in order to unravel some of the complex factors that result in the formation of unique fault zone rocks”

 

 

Summary Information

Panel

The proportion of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of the panels:

 

% Applicants

% Fellows

HSS

17

10

LFS

46

40

PEM

37

50

 

Institutions

The number of applications for the Funding round as defined by the various New Zealand Research, Science and Technology Institutions:

 

All

Longlist

Interview

Fellows

Crown Research Institutes

9

4

3

1

Universities

71

34

18

9

Other

3

2

0

0

Grand Total

83

40

21

10

 

Country of Origin

The percentage of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of their country of origin:

 

% Applications

% Fellows

New Zealand

80

80

International

20

20

 

Ethnicity

The percentage of applicants who applied with detail of their ethnicity:

 

% Applicants

Non-Maori

82

Maori

0

Not declared

1

 

Research experience

The percentage of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of their research experience [year since PhD]:

Years post PhD

% Applicants

% Fellows

R3

6

0

R4

7

0

R5

18

30

R6

27

30

R7

30

30

R8

12

10

 

Gender

The percentage of male and female applicants:

 

% Applicants

% Fellows

Female

36

30

Male

64

70