Category Archives: Past Events

The forensics of volcanic catastrophe – how to study large explosive eruptions

The Geoscience Society of New Zealand’s 2016 Hochstetter Lecture

Dr Colin Wilson, Professor of Volcanology at Victoria University of Wellington

Thursday 20 October at 7.30pm
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, corner Vautier and Dalton Streets, Napier

Admission: Gold coin donation

Erupting volcanoes are one of the great natural sights on the planet. There are, however, volcanoes on Earth which produce eruptions of such a size and violence (supereruptions at one extreme) that if you can see the volcano erupting you will die. Apart from being somewhat career-limiting, the chances of making useful observations are almost nil. Thus, what we understand about such eruptions and their parent volcanoes has to be gained from studying the products of past events, in a geological form of forensic science. In this talk, I outline the ways in which insights into large explosive eruptions can be gained from studying rocks in the field, then applying a variety of analytical techniques down to the microscopic scale. The information that is gained provides unprecedented details into eruptive processes, but suggests that we are still a long way from having a clear picture of how big eruptions and their parental volcanoes operate.


Colin is a volcanologist who began his career in physical volcanology, but has since strayed into the black arts of petrology and geochemistry. His research is mostly concerned with studying the products of large-scale explosive silicic volcanism, particularly ignimbrites. Trained at Imperial College in the UK, Colin has a long history of work in New Zealand, and is currently Professor of Volcanology at Victoria University of Wellington.



Big Steps Forward – Osteoporosis and bone disease

2016 Rutherford Lecture presented by Professor Ian Reid MD FRSNZ

6.00pm Thursday 6 October
Century Theatre, MTG, 9 Herschell StreetProf Ian Reid

Keeping bones strong over a lifetime is a longstanding challenge for medical health research and treatment. Distinguished Professor Ian Reid’s research career has lasted over 30 years and led to discoveries and new treatments that can improve bone health. In this talk, he will discuss the impact and treatment of bone diseases, including osteoporosis and Paget’s disease.

Ian Reid is a Distinguished Professor in Medicine at the University of Auckland, where he is Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. His research interests include calcium metabolism and osteoporosis. He is a past-president of the International Bone and Mineral Society and a recipient of the Bartter Award award from the American Society of Bone & Mineral Research and the Haddad Award from the European Calcified Tissue Society. His research is supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. In 2015 he was awarded the Liley Medal and the 2015 Rutherford Medal and together with his research group received the 2015 Prime Minister’s Science Prize.

This talk is free and open to the general public.
However, to ensure a seat, please register here

Rutherford sponsors

Advancing animal breeding for NZ Agriculture

Presented by Dr Natalie Pickering, Focus Genetics

6.00pm Tuesday 13 September 2016

Lecture Theatre 2, EIT, 501 Gloucester St, Taradale

Natalie PickeringNatalie is an Animal Breeding Scientist (Terminal Sheep and Deer) at Focus Genetics in Napier. In her talk, she will outline current research in advancing animal breeding for NZ agriculture, including new methods e.g. genomic selection and traits e.g. methane emissions, lamb eating quality. She will describe how Focus Genetics is working with animal breeders to implement these into the sheep, beef and deer breeding programmes they manage.

Natalie comes from a farming background in the Wairarapa, and wanted a career which involved helping farmers in some way. After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours), majoring in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Otago, she worked for AgResearch, studying DNA samples to identify the genes responsible for characteristics such as resistance to internal parasite infections, presence of horns and blindness in sheep. This data can be used to aid breeding programmes.

Natalie then enrolled in a PhD in Animal Science joint between Massey University and AgResearch, where she investigated the genetics of flystrike, dagginess and associated traits in sheep. After completing her PhD, she was employed by AgResearch on an international two-year research project investigating if it is possible to breed for low methane emitting animals (the answer is yes!).

Since 2013 Natalie has been working for Focus Genetics, where she is a member of the team of scientists using genomic technology to help sheep and deer breeders (and consequently farmers) produce more efficient, consistent quality, greater value animals to enhance profitability of the red meat sector.

Natalie was a Finalist for the 2016 Ballance Agri-Nutrients Sheep Industry Emerging Talent Award.


A Materials History of the World

Wednesday 27 July, 6pm, National Aquarium, Marine Parade, Napier

Dr Michelle Dickinson and Dr Franck Natali, MacDiarmid Institute

We define civilisation by the dominant material of the age: stone, bronze, iron. These days, cities rise to astounding heights with steel and reinforced concrete. We communicate between these cities at the speed of light, thanks to silicon – the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. And our consumer world is throw-away plastic.

Nanotechnologists now create new materials from the atoms up, often copying nature’s ability to self-assemble. Are we entering The Great Graphene Age? We are ourselves walking miracles of carbon construction.

Get the big picture from the nanotechnologists and materials scientists from the MacDiarmid Institute, a National Centre of Research Excellence

Nano girlDr Michelle Dickinson is an Associate Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland. Her research involves measuring the mechanical properties of materials from the nanoscale through to the macro scale. Michelle is well known as ‘Nanogirl’, for which she has won numerous awards for science communication, including the NZ Order of Merit



Dr Franck Natali is a Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute and Senior Lecturer in Physics at Victoria University of Wellington. Franck’s research spans from semiconductor material science to the fabrication of devices such as light emitting diodes and transistors


MacDiarmidInstituteThe MacDiarmid Institute is supporting regional development with this series of free public talks, organised in association with the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Ten things you didn’t know about climate change..the review

6pm Wednesday 6 July 2016

Tim Naishjames-renwick
Talking to almost a full Century Theatre, the engaging pair of Professors from VUW Tim Naish and James Renwick delivered a lucid account suitable for a lay audience of what scientific study to date tells us about the observed warming of the earth (look at these graphic results) and increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, its causes and possible consequences.

See their presentation slides

Many thanks to Tim and ” Jim”, Victoria University of Wellington and the Royal Society of New Zealand for this illuminating presentation


Ten things you didn’t know about climate change…

6pm Wednesday 6 July 2016
Century Theatre, MTG, 9 Herschell Street, Napier

Please register free by clicking here

Climate change is already redefining coastlines and the weather, both here in New Zealand and around the world. But will it affect me and what can I do about it? Tim Naish and James Renwick will give their take on this biggest of issues – from the very local to the global.

Professor Tim NaishTim Naish

Tim is Director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, where he and his team use rock and ice cores as a time machine to look at how the Antarctica ice sheets affected global sea-level in past warmer periods and what this means for our future.


Professor James Renwick


James is a Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria
University of Wellington where he indulges his fascination for all aspects of the climate system, from the tropics to the poles, and from thousands of years in the past to hundreds of years into the future.


Cape to City

Tuesday 21 June at Holt’s Planetarium, NBHS, Chambers Street, Napier at 7.30 pm (immediately following our AGM)

Andrea Byrom of Landcare Research, and currently Director of the National Science Challenge for NZ’s Biological Heritage will talk to us about a large collaborative project in Hawke’s Bay, Cape to City, which is led by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council and the Department of Conservation. She will also speak about how the Cape to City project can be an exemplar for others around New Zealand, and how it links to the Biological Heritage Science Challenge.

Cape to City logoAndrea byrom

Cape to City

Cape to City is about native species thriving where we live, work and play. It will achieve this vision through transformational change in pest management, research, education and how our community engage in ecological restoration initiatives within the Hawke’s Bay. It is a collaborative landscape scale project, covering 26,000ha of land on the coast of Cape Kidnappers, Ocean Beach and back towards Havelock North. The project’s footprint has a variety of land uses including farming, viticulture and nature experiences.

For more information click here

Exploring Pluto: On the ground, in the air, and out in space

Saturday 9 July 2016 at 7pm

Holt’s Planetarium, NBHS, Chambers Street, Napier

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand’s Beatrice Hill Tinsley 2016 Lecture

Presented by Dr Michael Person, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

PlutoMichael Person

Admission by gold coin donation, on a first come, first seated basis

Dr. Michael Person of MIT will discuss the history of Pluto science starting with the discovery of Pluto, through the discovery and characterization of its atmosphere and moons, to provide context to the discoveries of 2015. Focusing on his own experiences aboard the SOFIA aircraft, and the New Horizons flyby, he will discuss the explosion of Pluto knowledge over the last year, and its context in our understanding of the outer solar system.

Dr. Michael Person is a Research Astronomer in MIT’s Planetary Astronomy Laboratory, and Director of MIT’s George R. Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. He specializes in the observational techniques needed to observe occultations, eclipses, and transits, including high-precision astrometry, and high-time-resolution photometry. His science interests include identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of distant solar-system bodies, particularly Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects. Dr. Person received his education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA) where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, as well as Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  He trained in observational techniques and occultation science under the mentorship of the late Prof. James Elliot, one of the pioneers of modern occultation astronomy. Dr. Person’s current research focuses on the atmospheres of Pluto and Triton, and the use of the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observatory and other assets to identify and monitor their changes.

The year 2015 was truly the “Year of Pluto”. From the arrival of the historic New Horizons mission to the numerous dedicated Earth-based campaigns to examine Pluto near the flyby epoch, we potentially learned more about Pluto in 2015 than in all of the years since its discovery. During the weeks preceding the New Horizons flyby, a dedicated observation campaign was undertaken in New Zealand and parts of Australia to study Pluto’s atmosphere using the technique of stellar occultation, available only when Pluto passes directly in front of a star. A key component of this campaign was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a converted 747 with a 2.5-m telescope, which was based out of Christchurch for these events.

HB Astronomical SocietyRASNZ logo


The Science of Wine – Theory and Practice

Science of wine

Tuesday 19 July 2016 at 5.30 pm

Wine Sensory laboratory, E block (Winery and Labs building), EIT, 501 Gloucester Street, Taradale, Napier

Admission by ticket; members will receive an invitation by email

This evening will be a wonderful opportunity to find out about some of the leading research being undertaken at EIT in support of one of Hawke’s Bay’s most important industries.

‘The effect of an anti-transpirant on grape physiology and wine quality including the production of lower alcohol wine’

An evaluation (tasting) of trial wine will conclude this presentation.

Presenters: Dr Petra King and Ass. Prof. Dr Carmo Saunders – Vasconcelos.

‘The effect of a no-plunging regime on phenolic extraction in red wine’, again followed by evaluation of trial wines

Presenter: Rod Chittenden

Simple finger food will accompany the tastings

Those who wish to can afterwards visit the EIT labs and winery


Possible origins of antibiotic resistance: A biochemistry perspective

2016 Hamilton Lecture presented by Dr Valerie Soo

6.00pm Wednesday 17 August

Lecture Theatre 2, EIT, 501 Gloucester St, Taradale

Enzymes are the protein molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in all types of cells. Most enzymes are designed for specific functions, for example certain enzymes will break down antibiotics resulting in antibiotic resistance. This specialisation suggests a lack of flexibility but we know that enzymes do develop novel functions, so how does this happen? If enzymes are designed for one role, how do they develop novel functions?

Whilst doing her PhD, Valerie Soo discovered that many enzymes in the laboratory bacterium, Escherichia coli, have weak secondary functions. When placed in environments where toxins
or antibiotics were present, these secondary functions enabled the bacteria to grow in almost one third of these environments. The unexpected development of antibiotic resistance shows the possible role of weak secondary functions and how they help to evolve new functions in proteins.

Valerie SooDr Valerie Soo hails from Malaysia, and completed her undergraduate degree at Monash University Malaysia. Fascinated by molecular evolution, she undertook her PhD at Massey University and graduated in 2013. Valerie’s doctoral research on ‘promiscuous proteins’ changed the way that many of us think about enzyme evolution and her paper has been highly cited since its publication in 2011. Valerie is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Pennsylvania State University, USA but will move to London, UK in mid-2016.

rsnz_logo_1This lecture is kindly sponsored by the Royal Society of New Zealand