2011 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize

Winner of the 2011 Science Book Prize

Kakapo: Rescued from the Brink of Extinction: Alison Ballance

The fascinating story of how New Zealand’s eccentric parrot was saved from extinction.

Judges’ comments on winning book

In Kakapo – Rescued from the brink of extinction, Alison Ballance captures the passion of the relatively small number of brave, altruistic scientists and wildlife advocates, who set about trying tounderstand, and save from extinction, possibly the world’s most endearing bird. She describes howbiologists struggled to increase the kakapo numbers when the bird was poised on the edge of the precipice of extinction, and the path to understanding the crucial link between kakapo reproductionand levels of nutrition is told with clarity and humour. Along the way, each bird becomes a characterin his or her saga, so the reader rejoices with the hatching of every egg and is saddened by thepassing of every old kakapo. This book is also a tribute to the life and work of the late Don Merton,an innovative field biologist who showed us that, with hard work and imagination, miracles canhappen. Alongside illustrations that reflect a great sense of image developed during her work as afilmmaker, Alison’s stories describe cutting edge science in the wilderness, in a style that makes thebook engrossing reading–and a pleasure to simply dip into or leaf through as well.

Read the press release announcing the winner of the 2011 Science Book Prize

Runners Up

North Pole South Pole: The  Epic Quest to Solve the Great Mystery of Earth’s Magnetism

by Gillian Turner
Awa Press

The complete story of the quest to understand the Earth’s magnetism – from the fascination of ancient Greeks with magnestised rocks to the astonishing modern discoveries that finally revealed the truth.

Judges’ Comments

In North Pole, South Pole, Gillian Turner conveys her passion for a subject many of us take a little for granted. The author not only delves into the causes of the earth’s magnetism but provides a fascinating, compelling narrative of the centuries-long mystery and the many attempts to solve it. Turner takes a difficult subject, makes it accessible, and provides a fascinating backstage glimpse into how science works and the obstacles it has to overcome.



Poles Apart: Beyond the Shouting, Who’s Right about Climate Change?

by Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal
Random House


Over 18 months, writer/researcher John McCrystal and economist Gareth Morgan sifted through the arguments and counter-arguments to draw a verdict from the weight of evidence on climate change.

Judges’ Comments


In Poles Apart, Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal carefully wade through and unpack the complicated science of climate change, offering an educated layperson’s perspective on the public arguments that surround it. In doing so, they provide not just information about the science but an unusual insight into the challenges faced by the scientific process and the interpretation of results. Withholding a “verdict” as they develop and weigh the evidence, the authors offer a compelling read about an issue of global importance.



About the Science Book Prize

The definition of popular science books, for the purpose of this prize, is: books about science which do not require a specialist knowledge in the subject of the book in order to be read, enjoyed and understood.”

Reference and children’s books, and books which are essentially illustrative, will not be eligible for the prize, but the judges will accept books of fiction, poetry or drama, provided the central focus is on science.

The judges are:

  • Professor Michael Corballis, The University of Auckland
  • Professor Jean Fleming, University of Otago
  • Dr Bryan Walpert, Massey University



About the 2009 Science Book Prize

Information about the winner and shortlisted entries for the 2009 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize can be found here.