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Tectonic plate boundary scientist honoured by national body

Geophysicist Laura Wallace of GNS Science was today named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi for research that has put New Zealand at forefront worldwide of studies on tectonic plate boundary processes.

Dr Wallace combines geodetic, seismological and geological information to understand complex tectonic processes occurring at plate boundary zones.

In 2002, she was the first to discover slow-slip events at the plate boundary east of Gisborne – the Hikurangi subduction zone – and has since made these events and their relationship to catastrophic earthquakes central to her research.

Dr Wallace said she was surprised and deeply honoured to join such a distinguished group of researchers.

“I am pleased that the Royal Society recognises the importance of the work that our team has been doing to understand the hazard posed by the Hikurangi subduction zone to New Zealand.”

Dr Wallace said it was important to point out that the major advances that her team had made in understanding the Hikurangi subduction zone over the last 15 years were the result of a large amount of work by many scientists in New Zealand and overseas.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to be part this group. I also feel incredibly lucky to have spent most of my career in New Zealand, and to be a part of one of the most vibrant and dynamic Earth Science research communities in the world.”

Through Dr Wallace’s leadership, more than $60 million in international research funding has been raised to investigate the Hikurangi subduction zone and the potential threat it poses to New Zealand.

Her contribution to this multi-year effort has not just been by personal effort, but by building links to international scientists and local communities including iwi.

Dr Wallace has provided outstanding international leadership and has been effective in galvanising large groups of scientists from many countries to acquire new knowledge and understanding that can be converted to practical outcomes for New Zealand society.

Early in her career at GNS Science, Dr Wallace was responsible for designing the network of GPS instruments in the North Island for the GeoNet project, to better monitor the Hikurangi subduction zone.

Seven other GNS Science staff are Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Currently there are about 420 Fellows in total. Fellows can use the letters FRSNZ after their name to indicate the honour.

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