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Kauri dieback research wins student NRC award

Kauri dieback research wins student NRC award

Skeletal, dying kauri trees around Northland’s Waipoua Forest have led to an award-winning research project for a Northland secondary school leader.

Pompallier Catholic College head girl Annemieke Hendriks spent six months researching kauri dieback disease as part of her project ‘Long Live the King’ – named after the forest giant Tane Mahuta.

Her efforts paid off when she won a $1000 Northland Regional Council award at this week’s Refining NZ Central Northland Science and Technology Fair in Whangarei.

The Year 13 (7th Form) student collected the regional council’s ‘Consistent Excellence Award’ after spending more than 150 hours researching the fungus blamed for kauri dieback and what could be done to stop it spreading.

One of the things Annemieke’s research showed is that the fungal spores linked to the disease are very robust, can live for years, are easily spread and difficult to get rid of.

The 18-year-old’s interest was piqued when her family visited Trounson Park and Waipoua Forest earlier this year as part of showing United States-based relations the ‘cool things of New Zealand’.

“I’d heard about kauri dieback but unless you see it you don’t know about the significance of it,” Annemieke says. “It was quite scary to see the number of trees that have succumbed, the significance of it.”

“There’d be a few normal looking kauri trees then there’d be these white, not-very-leafy skeletal bodies. The kauri trees looked similar to Australian gum trees. They’d lost their foliage, bark was stripped off to the bare skeleton. When you walked through the forest you’d see trees bleeding, with no leaves, rotting on the outside.”

Annemieke was one of 240 students from 18 schools around the wider Whangarei district – plus Bay of Islands College - competing with 191 entries at the Refining NZ - sponsored fair, now in its 35th year.

The four-day event at Forum North in Whangarei ends today (SUBS: Thurs 29 August) and is organised by Central Northland science and technology teachers and experts.

Annemieke hopes to give a talk to her school about her research and is hoping it will also be displayed at Whangarei’s Kiwi North Kiwi House, Museum and Heritage Park, where she is a volunteer.

Annemieke has been entering science fairs since she was just 12 and has now won 16 awards.

Her previous science fair entries included one aimed at making safer storage for her father’s tools, another tracking the year-long movements of 60 wetas in her home garden and a third investigating Matakohe/Limestone Island’s petrel translocation programme.

Northland Regional Council Environmental Education Officer Susan Botting, who was among the judges at this year’s fair, says the judges were impressed with the number and overall quality of entries.

The regional council prize contributes $1000 towards the cost of a student’s university studies and must be used within three years.

Annemieke plans to use her regional council award money towards studying at Victoria University for a joint degree combining a Bachelor of Science with either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Music.


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