Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Prestigious awards for three top young scientists


STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL Thursday 8 September

Prestigious awards for three top young scientists

Rutherford Discovery Fellowships for New Zealand’s top young researchers have been awarded to Dr Nicholas Shears and Dr Quentin Atkinson from The University of Auckland, and will bring alumnus Dr David Goldstone back to the University from the United Kingdom.

The fellowships provide ten early-to-mid career researchers from around the country with up to $200,000 annually for the next five years.

Dr Shears is based in the Department of Statistics and undertakes marine research at the Leigh Marine Laboratory. The fellowship will support his work examining the impacts of human activity on coastal ecosystems, and predicting how these effects are likely to vary with climate change.

“It’s becoming increasingly important to predict how ecosystems will respond to climate change,” he says. “But we have to do this against the backdrop of existing stressors, which in the marine environment include things like overfishing, sedimentation and nutrient runoff from the land.”

“Sedimentation is a major threat to coastal ecosystems, and is expected to worsen as climate change causes more intense storm and rain events. On coastal reefs, sediment cuts out the sunlight that marine plants like kelp need to grow, yet as the ocean warms these plants will have a physiological requirement for even more light, so climate change could have a double impact.”

“Kelp forests are the predominant coastal reef cover in temperate regions like New Zealand. They are also one of the most productive coastal ecosystems, providing food and shelter for many other species, including species that we eat. Understanding these ecosystems and how to keep them healthy is therefore extremely important and a current challenge for resource managers, both locally and globally.”

Dr Shears says that the fellowship provides him with an incredible opportunity to concentrate on developing a long-term research program at The University of Auckland that has a strong application to management of our coastal ecosystems.

Fellow recipient Dr Atkinson from the Department of Psychology will examine how languages and cooperative cultural systems evolve through time, using the same sorts of tools that biologists use to study species evolution.

“Like species, languages and cultures evolve through time. Investigating the evolution of languages is an excellent way to understand human prehistory and cultural change more generally,” he explains.

“Languages are great to study because we can break them up into small parts – words or sounds – and create family trees that describe the evolution of these features over time. And since languages are tied to people, by reconstructing the history of languages we’re also reconstructing the history of the cultures that those languages belong to.”

Dr Atkinson is also interested in the evolution of cultural norms, institutions and technologies and what this means for how we respond to some of the greatest challenges of this century. “I’m particularly interested in how people cooperate and the cultural systems – the social hierarchies, rules, and moral norms – that encourage cooperation”

He says that the fellowship’s five years of support will give him time to pursue the questions he’s interested in and the financial security to ensure that he can keep the work moving forward. “It means that I can think longer-term and have the leeway to explore a bit more, and I’m excited about that.”

The two scientists are joined by Dr Goldstone, a structural biologist based at the National Institute for Medical Research in the United Kingdom, who will return to The University of Auckland, where he studied.

“The fellowship allows me to return to New Zealand and continue the work I have started in the United Kingdom,” he says. It will fund his research on key proteins involved in the immune response to retroviruses, a family of pathogens that includes HIV.

“The human genome harbours evidence of long-term and repeated exposure to retrovirus during our evolution,” he says. “As a result of this exposure, our cells have developed a wide array of proteins that act as part of the immune response to recognise, prevent, and contain infection by retroviruses. Learning more about this aspect of innate immunity may lead to new opportunities to block and clear retroviral infections.”

Dr Goldstone will study a group of proteins which have a shared molecular architecture and play a vital role in the immune response to retroviral pathogens. He will examine the proteins at the atomic level, to understand how they target retroviruses and interact with components of human cells.


ends


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Auckland Transport: Successful Bridge Repair Opens Two Additional Lanes To Traffic

The opening of two additional lanes on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning will help relieve some motorway congestion for motorists heading home to the North Shore tonight. More>>

ALSO:

Statistics New Zealand: COVID-19 Sees Record 12.2 Percent Fall In New Zealand’s Economy

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 12.2 percent in the June 2020 quarter, the largest quarterly fall recorded since the current series began in 1987, as the COVID-19 restrictions in place through the quarter impacted economic activity, Stats NZ said ... More>>

ALSO:

Climate: Scientists Release ‘Blueprint’ To Save Critical Ecosystems And Stabilize The Earth’s Climate

A group of scientists and experts produced the first comprehensive global-scale analysis of terrestrial areas essential for biodiversity and climate resilience, totaling 50.4% of the Earth's land. The report was published in Science Advances ... More>>

ALSO:

MPI: Independent Review Launched Into Assurances For Safe Transport Of Livestock By Sea

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has launched an independent review of the assurances it receives for the safe transport of livestock by sea. MPI Director-General Ray Smith says Mike Heron QC has been appointed to lead the review, which is expected ... More>>

ALSO:


Computers: New Zealand PC Market Grows Nearly 40% Due To Work From Home Demand

COVID-19 had large impacts on demand for PCs as businesses prepared for lockdowns by purchasing notebooks to mobilise their workforce. In the second quarter of 2020, New Zealand's Traditional PC market experienced a 39.7% year-on-year (YoY) growth ... More>>

ALSO:


University Of Auckland: Whale-Watching By Satellite – Follow Their Travels Online

Scientists have successfully attached satellite tracking tags to six New Zealand southern right whales, or tohorā, and are inviting the public to follow the whales’ travels online. Part of a major research project involving the University of Auckland ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Kiwibank Admits System Failures And Agrees To Pay Customers $5.2 Million

Kiwibank has entered into a settlement agreement with the Commerce Commission after reporting that it failed to have in place robust home loan variation disclosure policies, procedures and systems. In a settlement dated 27 August 2020, Kiwibank admitted that ... More>>

Ministry of Health: Public Transport Distancing Requirements Relaxed

Physical distancing requirements on public transport have been reviewed by the Ministry of Health to determine whether they are still required at Alert Level 2 (or below). The Ministry’s assessment is that mandatory face covering and individuals tracking ... More>>

ALSO:

NZHIA: New Zealand Hemp Industry Set To Generate $2 Billion Per Annum And Create 20,000 Jobs

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs. Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp ... More>>

ALSO:

Stats NZ: One In 14 Employed People Report High Risk Of Losing Jobs

About one in 14 workers say they expect to lose their job or business by mid-2021, Stats NZ said today. A survey of employed people in the June 2020 quarter showed 7 percent felt there was a high or almost certain chance of losing their job or business ... More>>

ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast: NZ Economy Doing Better Than Expected, But Challenges Remain

August lockdown estimated to have shaved 8% off NZ’s weekly GDP, and 0.5% off annual GDP Economy now expected to shrink 5% (year-on-year) by end of 2020 Unemployment rate now expected to peak at 7.2% The latest ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast is less ... More>>

ALSO: