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.

Stories and Understanding Other People

Thursday 11 August 2016 at 7.30 pm

Holt’s Planetarium, Chambers Street, Napier

A presentation by Dr Raymond Mar, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology,  York University, Toronto, Canada

Raymond cartoon portrait caricature

Reading has long been identified as an important contributor to important outcomes related to language, such as vocabulary. However, the reading of narrative fiction might have additional benefits tied to perspective-taking and empathy. In this talk, Dr Mar will present a critical review of the available evidence from his own lab and others on the possibility that reading stories might help us to better understand other people in the real world.

Raymond Mar holds three degrees in Psychology from the University of Toronto. His post-doctoral research work at York University in Cognitive Sciences has recently been focussed on the neurological impacts of reading fiction.

Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust

Seaweek Royal Society Lecture
Tuesday 1 March 2016, 7:30pm
Venue: National Aquarium of New Zealand, Marine Parade Napier
Admission: Gold coin donation

Piripi Smith, Maori navigator and Chairman of the Te Matau a Māui Voyaging Trust

Te Matua Trust picture

For thousands of years, Austronesian navigators (Tohunga) piloted primitive, double-hulled sailing ships called “waka” across vast stretches of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. These highly-trained sailors traveled across hundreds or thousands of kilometers discovering uninhabited islands, creating new colonies, and developing trade networks. What’s hard to believe is that these navigators traversed these great distances using no technology or maps, but instead relying on tuning into the stars, winds and Mother Nature.

Up until modern times, these traditional sailing methods had been preserved by Polynesian peoples. There has been a recent revival of this method of transport, and to prove to the skeptics that the accuracy of guiding “waka” does not rely on luck, a new generation of navigators continues to sail between distant islands with no maps, compasses or GPS systems.

One group in New Zealand that prioritizes the preservation of this tradition is Te Matau a Māui Voyaging Trust, which manages a program called Waka Experience. The organization is led by Chairman Piripi Smith, who is an experienced Maori navigator.

Come hear about the local waka, Te Matau a Maui, and traditional navigator Piripi Smith talk about their Pacific voyages.



Please direct any enquiries to HBBranchRSNZ@gmail.com

Christchurch Earthquake: Restoration of buildings and applicability in Napier

5.30pm on Wednesday 17 February 2016
National Aquarium of NZ, 546 Marine Parade, Napier
Entry: gold coin donation

The Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand, in partnership with the Hawke’s Bay Chapter of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, presents The 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Commemorative Lecture, with guest speakers Andrew Masterson and Guy Lethbridge.

Andrew Masterson is Business Development Manager of Mainmark Ground Engineering (NZ) Ltd in Christchurch. They were the lead contractor who worked with a consortium of international experts from New Zealand, Australia and Japan, to re-level the Christchurch Art Gallery following the February 2011 earthquake, using technology that was developed as a result of the Japanese earthquakes. Guy Lethbridge is a Director of Strata Group Consulting Engineers Ltd in Hastings, a structural engineering consultancy involved in strengthening buildings in Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch.

Their talk will describe re-levelling of the Christchurch Art Gallery and the potential application of levelling technology in Napier after an earthquake event. They will comment on the latest geological mapping underway in Hawke’s Bay and potential implications, and compare pre- and post-earthquake foundation designs, processes and outcomes.

Art Gallery Composition HR JOG + JG A5[1]

The Christchurch Art Gallery, with a graphic of the Jet Grout Machines installing the cement stabilised columns, and the JOG Computer Controlled Grout Injection system lifting the building back to its original inclination.

New food production paradigms: why farm systems are changing

Dr Charles Merfield

Director, Future Farming Centre, Biological Husbandry Unit Lincoln

7:00pm – 8:30 pm, Wednesday 26th August 2015 (Note earlier time)
Hawke’s Bay Holt Planetarium in Napier

13032009338 smModern farming systems are 70 years old. They have been very successful at meeting their key aim; maximising food production. However, society is asking farmers to take on new aims including providing ecosystem services to protect and enhance the environment.

Four key technologies created modern farming: fossil fuels, synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, soluble lithospheric fertilisers and agrichemical pesticides. There are increasing issues with each of these both from the input (e.g. cost, resistance) and outcome (e.g. pollution) sides.

Sustainable agriculture is smart agriculture that uses all available tools to find long lasting alternatives. A key to developing and analysing farm systems is overlapping the sciences of physics, chemistry, biology and ecology. Sustainable farming can be viewed as a martial art, probing and testing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses then using smarts, not brute force, to win the contest.

Viewing farming through the eye of Darwin’s Law of Evolution will allow more sustainable and durable solutions to be developed.

Charles MerfieldDr Charles Merfield is the founding head of the BHU Future Farming Centre which focuses on ‘old school’ agri/horticultural science and extension.

Charles studied commercial horticulture in the UK and then spent seven years managing organic vegetable farms in the UK and NZ.

In the mid 1990s he moved into research, focusing on sustainable agriculture including soil management, pest, disease and weed management general crop and pasture production.

He has been fortunate to work and experience agriculture in diverse range of countries including NZ, UK, Ireland, USA and Uruguay. He therefore has a broad knowledge of real-world farming as well as science as well a deep understanding of the history of agriculture and science, which enables him to paint the big-picture of where modern farming has come from and where it is going.

Scientists on Air

The Branch has, in conjunction with our local Community Radio Station, Radio Kidnappers, been interviewing a number of local scientists about their lives, careers and the science in which they have been involved.

Scientists on Air play on the second Monday of the month at 9:30 am. Replays of aired programmes can be found on the Radio Kidnappers’ Scientists on Air page.

Hawke’s Bay has a much larger history of science than many people realise. Our own Branch began over a century ago as a forum for scientific discussion and dissertation. Much more recently the region hosted a branch of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Technical Research (MAF Tech) which were replaced by the current Crown Research Institutes.

Our public science institutions now include Plant and Food Research, Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and more. We also have a number of private research and development companies, many not recognised locally because their main business in off-shore.

2013 Hawke’s Bay Science Fair

The 2013 Science Fair was by all accounts a great success. There were 180 entries, with 30% achieving Commended, Highly Commended or Outstanding awards. The large number of entries gave the judges a much larger than anticipated workload. Their diligence and commitment is once again commended as they read, questioned and supported the students.

The major sponsor of the 2013 Science Fair was Eastern Institute of Technology. EIT also hosted the event, provided considerable staff support and gave senior student entrants a tour of the science facilities. Many other organisations, including our Branch, also provided awards.

The Hawke’s Bay Branch sees the Science Fair as one of the very important events of the year. We are fully focused on elevating the role of science, especially among the new generation who will be the leaders of research and development in years to come.

Acknowledging this, the Branch once again sponsored prizes. We made the following Science and Technology Fair Awards in August 2013:

Hannah Brownrigg Science Fair outstanding winner

Winner of the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of NZ Scientific Award for excellence in science or technology in a Year 9-13 exhibit was Hannah Brownrigg of Woodford House school for her project “Maize moisture management”.

Winner of the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of NZ Scientific Award for excellence in science or technology in a Year 7-8 exhibit was Oliver Wilson of Sherwood School for his project “Colourful Chromatography”.

Winner of the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of NZ Scientific Award for merit in science or technology was Max Simcox of Puketapu School for his project “Up & Go”.

We again congratulate these students, and all the others that won awards.