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‘International PhD Scholarships Benefit NZ’

‘International PhD Scholarships Benefit NZ’

Alice Doughty is researching how changes in climate affect New Zealand’s glaciers


Thirty-eight top doctoral research students from around the world have been offered New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS), funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and administered by Education New Zealand. These outstanding students will be working in New Zealand on their PhDs, many taking on projects that will have the potential for major benefits in this country.

“When these top research students come to New Zealand on the scholarships, New Zealand benefits,” says Robert Stevens, CEO of Education New Zealand. “They are doing some outstanding research, which improves our universities’ reputations internationally, while many of their projects also have strong impacts outside the education sector.” says Robert Stevens.

Etienne Laliberté of Canada, for example, will be studying the long-term effects of intensive farming on high-country ecosystems. “In the New Zealand South Island high country, increasingly difficult land-use decisions have to be made to accommodate various stakeholders. Native biodiversity conservation, economic production (grazing value), and soil carbon sequestration are all important ‘services’ provided by these ecosystems,” says Etienne.

“This research will help to support decision-making for the sustainable management of high country ecosystems,” he says. Etienne is working towards his forestry PhD at the University of Canterbury.

Another Canadian student, Jolene Sutton, will be assessing the genetic impacts of relocation of South Island Saddlebacks to island sanctuaries. “New Zealand is a world leader in utilizing avian translocations for species management, and the research will be vital for addressing current conservation and management practices”, says Jolene.

Her PhD studies at the University of Otago will help in the management of New Zealand’s threatened and endangered bird species. Her work may also have a life beyond New Zealand’s borders. “My research will have enormous practical benefits both for wildlife managers and research scientists. I will also have the personal satisfaction of knowing that my research could be globally applicable to conservation efforts for many different vertebrate species.”

Meanwhile, German geology student Carolin Boese is helping to analyse seismic activity in the unusually-quiet central section of the Southern Alpine Fault. Her research could lead to better predictions regarding earthquakes along our largest fault line. Caroline’s study is part of a large project being coordinated by Victoria University.

American earth sciences student Alice Doughty will also be spending time in the Southern Alps for her research with Victoria University. She is studying glaciers to determine how changes in our climate affect the rate at which the glaciers advance and retreat. She believes that studying our glaciers gives us a window into the history of New Zealand’s climate.

“New Zealand is one of the few places I can study and measure glaciers directly, work with innovative, world-renowned scientists, and try to answer important global-scale questions about climate change. The Southern Alps provide a unique opportunity for scientists to study temperate glaciers in a high precipitation, middle-latitude setting.” Alice says.

The contributions these students make to New Zealand don’t end with their PhD studies, according to Dr Charles Tustin, the Director of Graduate Research Services at the University of Otago and a member of the scholarship’s selection panel. “They also establish valuable collaborations with researchers in this country which continue when they go back home after completing their PhD. A bit of New Zealand goes with them when they leave which enhances this country’s reputation as a significant world player, further attracting other bright students to the country. These scholarships are a fantastic investment in New Zealand’s future,” Dr Tustin says.

All eight of New Zealand’s universities will be hosting some of the 38 new NZIDRS recipients. Scholarships were offered to students from 15 different countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya and El Salvador. NZIDRS recipients are chosen on academic merit by a selection panel. Applications can be made throughout the year, and are due on July 15. For more information on the scholarships, visit


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