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International award to New Zealand scientist

International award to New Zealand scientist

January 22, 2014

A University of Canterbury (UC) marine expert has received a triennial international award for lifelong contributions to marine science.

Professor David Schiel received the award at the recent 10th International Temperate Reef Symposium in Perth.

The conference was a gathering of more than 200 scientists from 24 countries. Professor Schiel was cited for his commitment to students, colleagues worldwide, contribution to the conferences over many years and his record of high achievement during his career.

The award to Professor Schiel was only the sixth ever given. The presentation was made by noted marine scientist Professor Stephen Hawkins of Southampton University. Professor Schiel says it was a great honour to receive the award.

He is head of the Marine Ecology Research Group in UC’s School of Biological Sciences. Along with postgraduate students and many colleagues, especially from NIWA, he has done research into many aspects of coastal ecology.

This includes the dynamics of kelp forests, fisheries, aquaculture, estuary ecology and oil spill effects.

Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, his team has done significant research in the Avon-Heathcote Estuary, including the effects of tilting of the estuary floor, massive liquefaction and consequent changes in production and food web dynamics throughout the estuary.

Professor Schiel was one of the lead scientists who worked on the effects and aftermath of the Rena oil spill and, along with Waikato University, is continuing research on recovery processes in the Bay of Plenty region.

His highly cited coastal research has highlighted the role and vulnerability of key habitat-forming species, especially large seaweeds, in maintaining the diversity and functioning of near shore ecosystems.

These seaweed habitats suffer from multiple stressors worldwide and their loss has had a great impact on coastal processes in many countries, Professor Schiel says.

``Particularly over the past year, my ecology group has analysed long-term trends in climate change across New Zealand’s near shore zone.

``This shows that those sea surface temperatures have increased in the north and wave forces have increased in the south of New Zealand over the past few decades, which also relates to long-term changes in coastal habitat processes.’’


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