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NZAS awards celebrate fundamental science

NZAS awards celebrate fundamental science

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) is pleased to announce its annual medals to New Zealand scientists for 2013.

The Marsden medal was awarded to Professor Barry Scott from Massey University, in recognition of a career ranging from seminal work on the nitrogen fixing (reported in Nature in 1979) to studies of the symbiosis between fungus and perennial ryegrass that is so important to New Zealand agriculture. The identification of the fungal endophyte genes and biochemical pathways responsible for the bioprotection that this symbiosis provides the grasses led to the development of field-tests that can identify the potential of different endophyte strains. In both the practice of and service to science, nationally and internationally, Professor Barry Scott has made over time the outstanding contributions that fully merit the award of the Marsden Medal.

The Shorland Medal was awarded to Dr Graham Nugent and his team, Bruce Warburton, Penny Fisher, Dave Morgan, and Peter Sweetapple at Landcare Research. This multidisciplinary team has made huge progress over the last two
decades, and is a demonstration that significant progress in biological science can often take a long time and requires consistent and persistent research. Their research has clarified the role of various pest species as TB vectors and as threats to native biodiversity; helped develop new strategies for local elimination of pests and pest and disease freedom; helped substantially reduce the environmental, non-target, and animal welfare risks caused by pest management.

Dr Noam Greenberg, an Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington, is the recipient of the Research Medal, awarded to researchers under 40. Dr Greenberg is a pure mathematician, who works on the mathematics of computability. His mathematical research sheds light on the fundamental capabilities and limitations of the algorithms used by modern computers and software. The international quality of his research has been recognized by the award of a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (2011) from the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Turing Research Fellowship (2012) from the US-based John Templeton Foundation.

The Science Communicators award goes to Associate Professor Simon Lamb of Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Lamb has a sustained record of high impact communication concerning the science of climate change. His portfolio of work, including several books and a number of TV documentaries and films, have reached large global audiences. His book, “The Devil and the Mountain”, which describes his own research into the formation of the Andes, was named on the New York Times Book Review’s list of 100 Notable Books for 2004. This year, he completed a major documentary film project, “Thin Ice", which has reached a global audience of more than 50,000 people.

Dr Nicola Gaston, President of the Association, noted that the awards celebrate the full range of science in New Zealand, from long term research programmes that have demonstrated impact in agriculture and biodiversity to fundamental work in mathematics.

“The value of science is often reduced to simple outcomes from individual projects as emphasised by our funding cycles. It is good to see sustained contributions by teams as well as by individuals being acknowledged by these awards.” The Assoication is also pleased to acknowledge the importance of skilled science communicators in fields of public importance, such as climate change.

The Awards will be presented at the 2014 Annual Conference of the NZAS, which will take place in Auckland on Saturday the 5th April. The theme of this year’s conference, which is being chaired by Dr Siouxsie Wiles of the University of Auckland, will be “Science and Society”.


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