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Elegant science awarded


08 March 2008

Elegant science awarded

Professor Tim Naish's geological re-evaluation of the Wanganui Basin has been judged an exemplar of "elegant science" and is one of the many achievements for which he has won the 2009 James Lee Wilson Award.

To acknowledge young scientists' excellence in sedimentary geology, the award is administered by the Society for Sedimentary Geology.

Recently appointed as Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, Professor Naish has built an impressive academic record in sequence stratigraphy – the study of climate and sea-level cycles in continental rock strata - since completing his PhD at Waikato University.

He continued to research the Wanganui Basin as a post-doctoral fellow at James Cook University, Australia, using seismic and outcrop data to identify sedimentary cycles at a range of scales. Recognising the potential of the geological record, Professor Naish gathered a team of specialists that led to a basin-wide study and synthesis that identified evidence for more than 50 fluctuations in global sea-level during the last two million years.

The research results have been published in leading international journals, and in 2006 he was awarded the Geological Society of New Zealand’s highest honour, the McKay Hammer, in recognition. In April next year he will receive the James Lee Wilson Award at the Society for Sedimentary geology’s annual convention in San Antonio.

An abridged excerpt of a citation by Professor Lionel Carter follows:

First described by Sir Charles Fleming in 1953, the Plio-Pleistocene Wanganui sequence is one of the finest shallow marine records of global sea-level and climate change. Tim’s idea was to apply modern sequence- and cyclo-stratigraphic methods to unravel the sedimentary history and, through correlations with deep-sea isotopic records, identify the Milanković forcing parameters.

His cyclo-stratigraphic expertise later focussed on Antarctica where he identified orbital forcing of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet as recorded in core samples from the Cape Roberts Drilling Project. That research appeared in Nature magazine, and this work continues today under the Antarctic Drilling programme, which is unravelling the history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Tim was co-chief for the first stage of the ANDRILL project that recovered 1285m of sediment core – currently the longest Antarctic core - containing an exceptional record of ice sheet variability over the past 13 million years.


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