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Seafloor Geoscientist Wins Prestigious Award

NIWA scientist Joshu Mountjoy has walked away with the esteemed McKay Hammer Award from the Geoscience Society of New Zealand.

This accolade is given to a researcher who has made momentous contribution to geoscience in Aotearoa over the past three years.

Joshu claimed the prize thanks to his work on seafloor earthquakes and canyons, specifically the study he led on the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake. In this study, Joshu and his team recorded, for the first time, a process that causes the development of deep-sea canyons.

They found that the Kaikōura Earthquake triggered powerful and widespread underwater landslides. These led to "canyon flushing", where hundreds of megatons of sediment moved into the deep ocean, leaving behind a deep-sea canyon.

This was the first time globally that this process has been observed and documented, showing how significant a single canyon flushing event can be.

Joshu comments on how pivotal the Kaikōura Earthquake was for his research and the knowledge it provided for the scientific community.

"The Kaikōura Earthquake was such an incredible event, it’s not something I thought I’d ever see in my career. We were well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity because NIWA’s vessel, the RV Tangaroa, was at sea at the time. We had also done so much mapping prior to the event that we were going to be able to see change".

"The paper we wrote brought together lots of different threads and is the most satisfying publication I have led or been involved in. It is the scientific highlight of my career."

Joshu went on to say how much the award means to him, giving thanks all the people who have helped him along the way.

"There was a lot of people involved in this paper. Dr Jamie Howarth gets a special mention for all the effort he put in and I’d also like to say a special thanks to Phil Barnes, who’s been my mentor and given my guidance throughout my career as a marine geoscientist at NIWA."

Joshu began his science career studying for an MSc in Engineering Geology back in 2000. He then came to NIWA to do a PhD and has since lead multiple RV Tangaroa voyages and projects. He has recently taken up a new role as Strategy Manager for Oceans, which will allow him to focus on expanding NIWA’s science across a broader range of disciplines.

The award was presented at an online ceremony on Tuesday 02 December. A video of Joshu’s acceptance speech and B-roll of the research done at sea can be viewed here.

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