2013 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize

Winner of the 2013 Science Book Prize

Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird by Quinn Berentson

Cover of Moa

Judges comments

‘Moa – the Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird’ is a big book about a giant bird and larger-than-life historical characters.

Author Quinn Berentson has a flair for story-telling, and he’s crafted dramatic tales of professional jealousy and rivalry that bring two centuries of scientific discovery, tales of Māori exploration and settlement, and even an extinct bird, to life on the page.

Berentson deftly weaves together compelling narratives about science history, archaeology, natural history and palaeontology that flesh out a flightless bird we know largely from bones.

This is an exceptional first book, in which Berentson has put his experience in television writing and directing to good use. He has a fine eye for detail and a lively turn of phrase that makes the book a real page turner. A wide range of well-chosen archival pictures also produce a visual treat.

Hear interview with Quinn Berentson, speaking about his book, on Saturday Morning on Radio New Zealand National.

About Quinn Berentson

Quinn BerentsonQuinn Berentson is a writer, documentary film-maker and photographer. After graduating with a BSc Honours in Zoology from the University of Otago, he began writing and directing children’s educational television. He then moved into international documentary making, and has produced documentaries for such clients as Discovery Channel, National Geographic and History Channel on subjects as diverse as blue whales, serial killers and human cannonballs. He continues to work as a freelance director alongside other writing projects. 

Read the press release announcing the winner of the 2013 Science Book Prize.

Runners Up

Science on Ice: Discovering the Secrets of Antarctica by Veronika Meduna

Cover of Science on Ice

Judges comments

Veronika Meduna skilfully weaves together a multitude of stories to present a comprehensively readable account of the wide range of science that takes place in the Antarctic. 

The book explores what research has and is being done, what it’s like to work in such a physically challenging environment, and what insights it has given us about the frozen continent itself as well as how it has contributed to our wider understanding of global processes and issues such as climate change.

Together the text and photos present a compelling case for why both science and Antarctica matter.

Cover of Graft

Graft by Helen Heath

Judges comments

Helen Heath seats poems that are explicitly about science and scientists alongside poems that explore a more internal world of family, emotion and travel.

In doing so she blurs boundaries and masterfully reminds us that science is not a separate and remote entity but is part of the vital continuum of life, and that indeed science itself encompasses many aspects from the social to the physical

About the 2013 Science Book Prize

This award was open to all books published in 2011 and 2012 which communicated scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way. Popular science books written by New Zealand authors were eligible for entry, as were books of fiction, drama and poetry, provided they had a strong science content.

The prize

 The winning author received a cash prize of $5,000.


The judges of the 2013 Science Book Prize were: 

  • Professor Michael Corballis, University of Auckland
  • Professor Shaun Hendy, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Alison Ballance, Radio New Zealand.

About previous Science Book Prizes

Information about winners and shortlisted entries for previous Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prizes can be found at:

Taylor and Francis logo