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Wendy Nelson

Wendy Nelson

Marine botanist (1954-)

When Wendy Nelson won the Royal Society’s Hutton Medal in 2016, she became the second woman to gain the award in its over one hundred year history – in 1965 the medal had been awarded to botanist Lucy Moore. Nelson had begun working under Nancy Adams at New Zealand’s National Museum in the 1970s, and was appointed curator of botany when Adams retired in 1987. Over the next 15 years, she added more than 8,000 new specimens to the Te Papa seaweed collections. Now at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research and a professor at the University of Auckland, Nelson is New Zealand’s pre-eminent seaweed expert. She has documented the diversity of New Zealand’s seaweeds from the Kermadecs to the Subantarctics, conducting research on taxonomy, evolution, algal ecology, alien seaweeds, seaweed aquaculture and commercial harvesting. She has shown how important New Zealand is in understanding the evolution of the world’s seaweeds; campaigned to remove aggressive weeds from our coastal waters; and worked to generate new knowledge on ocean acidification.


For more information: “Royal Society Te Apārangi - 2016 Hutton Medal: Understanding New Zealand’s Diverse Marine Flora,” accessed February 4, 2018, https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/medals-and-awards/medals-and-awards-news/2016-hutton-medal/.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.