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Researchers from GNS Science honoured in prestigious awards

9 November 2018

Researchers from GNS Science involved at all stages of the science value chain were this week honoured for their contributions to making New Zealand more resilient to geological hazards.

They were among 14 scientists and seven science teams from New Zealand’s seven Crown Research Institutes who were honoured at the annual Science New Zealand National Awards at a function at Parliament.

The three award categories – Lifetime Achievement, Early Career Researcher, and Team - are designed to recognise the exceptional people contributing their expertise, insight and dedication to benefit New Zealand.

General manager of GNS Science’s strategic relationships for natural hazards, Dr Kelvin Berryman, won the Lifetime Achievement Award for a distinguished career in advancing the disciplines of active tectonics and earthquake hazard.

Kelvin has been particularly effective in putting science into public policy to make New Zealand a safer and more prosperous country. He regularly interacts with engineers, planners, and policy makers on the design of new structures, seismic assessment of infrastructure, and disaster risk management.

He also has great strengths in leadership, mentoring early career scientists, and in building effective research teams to address issues of local, regional and national significance.

Over the past four decades, his work on the Alpine Fault in the South Island has clarified the hazard represented by this geological feature and has directly stimulated South Island-wide earthquake preparedness programmes.

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Natural hazards planner and policy researcher, Dr Wendy Saunders, won the Early Career Researcher Award. This is for scientists who have completed a PhD in the past 10 years and have made substantial scientific contributions that have benefitted New Zealand.

Wendy has developed a practical land-use planning framework for Councils to manage their natural hazards.

It consists of an online risk-based planning toolkit with practical steps to enable Councils to review multiple natural hazard risks within their regions and engage with external stakeholders.

Numerous councils have adopted the framework and are applying Wendy’s risk-based approach, both for land-use planning and emergency management planning.

The Team Award was won by the Tectonics and Structure of Zealandia Team, which has achieved major advancements in scientific knowledge and increasing public awareness of living on the plate boundary.

This large team of 36 scientists integrates seismology, seismic tomography, magnetotellurics, structural geology, geodynamic modelling, geodesy, remote sensing, and earthquake geology.

Among their many achievements are developing the first 3D seismic velocity model of New Zealand’s brittle crust leading to much more accurate earthquake locations, discovering slow-slip earthquakes on the Hikurangi subduction zone, and securing international funding of about $40 million to drill and explore the Hikurangi subduction zone and the Alpine Fault.

The Crown Research Institutes are part of a tradition of government-owned science research and application going back more than 150 years. They remain true to the legacy of helping shape New Zealand’s wealth and wellbeing.


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