Achieving win-win outcomes for native biodiversity and pastoral farming

Friday 4 September at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Prof David Norton, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.
Cost – $5 per person.

In order to comply with the Alert Level 2 requirements for our upcoming talk, we need to restrict attendance to no more than 100 people. To avoid turning people away at the door, we are asking people to please RSVP in advance to secure a spot . Please do not RSVP until you are sure you can attend. We would also like to encourage all guests to arrive early in order to allow for the extra time required to safely check everybody in. And as always, please stay home if you aren’t feeling well.

For those of you who are unable to attend in person, we are planning to live-streaming the talk. You can join the meeting here: https://meet.google.com/wvk-rozf-scx

Welcome to The Wanaka Branch of the
Royal Society of New Zealand.

The Wanaka group was formed in February 2013, becoming the 9th Regional branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand which is based in Wellington. Consistent with the aims of the central organisation, the main objective of the Wanaka Branch is to advance and promote science, technology and humanities in Wanaka and the Wanaka region. Read more on the history and philosophy of the Branch.

The Branch seeks to achieve this by offering a series of 6 to 10 lectures each year. It aims to bring speakers who are highly regarded in their field of knowledge and expertise, as well as good communicators. Each year a number of eminent national and international speakers, who tour New Zealand under the umbrella of the Royal Society Wellington are included in the programme.

The Wanaka Branch is constituted as an unincorporated society and comprises a membership who appoint an executive committee at an AGM held in May each year. Members receive advance notices of lectures and other communications by email. Lectures are open to the public, and usually held at 6pm on a Friday in the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka.

Becoming a Member

Anyone is welcome to become a member of the Wanaka Branch. For information about types of memberships, subscriptions/fees, how to apply, and Rules of the Society, please click on the link below.

Upcoming Talks


Active faults and earthquake hazard in Otago

Friday 23 July at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Professor Mark Stirling, Inaugural Chair of Earthquake Science, University of Otago.

Cost – $5

Otago is a region of few historical earthquakes, but with abundant evidence for major prehistoric earthquakes on the geologically active faults. The region’s distinctive Range and Basin topography is a consequence of long-term activity on these faults. Fault studies effectively began back in the days of “Think-Big” inspired hydroelectric power developments, and this was followed by intermittent research and consulting efforts over the years. Most recently, regional fault studies have been undertaken by GNS Science and NIWA, and fault- or area-specific studies have been undertaken by our Otago Earthquake Science Group. In this seminar I will provide an overview of our studies across central and east Otago, and also provide an overview of our “world-first” use of ancient fragile rock formations to inform earthquake hazard assessments. The work collectively addresses our main research goal, which is to understand earthquakes and hazard in low seismicity regions, and attempts to understand the potential for future Canterbury-style earthquake events in Otago.

Mark is a seismologist with a multidisciplinary background in geology and seismology. He is the inaugural Chair of Earthquake Science at the University of Otago, a position based in the Department of Geology. Prior to that was a Principal Scientist at GNS Science (1998-2015), leading the development of the last three versions of the national seismic hazard model for New Zealand during that time. His current research is largely focused on the earthquake geology, simulated earthquakes, and hazard of low seismicity regions like Otago. He lives in Dunedin with his family of Jane, Lewis and Toby, and enjoys DIY, motorcycling, golf, and playing the drums in his spare time.



Communicating Science Through Film

Friday 6 August at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Max Quinn, Polar Film Maker

Max will take the audience on an illustrated talk through his television career which began 53 years ago, He will emphasise the roll Science and the Natural World has played in his working life and describe how he has attempted to
portray complex science issues to a television audience.

Max Quinn has been involved in television production for over 50 years. He cut his professional
teeth as a cine cameraman for the NZBC in news, current affairs, and documentaries. He then went
on to become a prolific Director of Photography on many early New Zealand TV drama productions
before moving into TV production as a director and producer of children’s programmes.

In 1987 he fulfilled a lifelong passion for the natural world by joining TVNZ’s Natural History Unit in
Dunedin where he produced the science magazine series Fast Forward. Since then he has filmed in
many of the world’s wildlife hot-spots for broadcasters such as National Geographic, Discovery
Channel, The Smithsonian Channel and TVNZ. In 1991 Max wintered over in Antarctica for 11
months to film a pioneering documentary on the Emperor Penguin. He went on to film, direct and
produce many natural history documentaries including at least 14 based around the Polar Regions
where he has experienced first hand, the effects of climate change on these fragile environments. In
recent years Max has worked extensively in Mexico, the USA, Taiwan and China, including Tibet, and
most recently in Brazil where he encountered many of South America’s iconic animals.

He has now written a best selling book on his polar filming experiences. A LIFE OF EXTREMES: The
Life and Times of a Polar Filmmaker and is still working as a free lancer in the TV business.

For further information on Max, go to: http://www.nzonscreen.com/person/max-quinn

Wild capture

Max Quinn


Moriori – assuredly a story worth telling.

Friday 3 September at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Doug Sutton, University of Auckland (Retired).

This paper summarises research over the last fifty years which has clarified what we now know about:

  • The  original discovery of the Chatham Islands,
  • The indigenous development there of Moriori population, culture and society,
  • The nature of Moriori society as it was prior to new arrivals,
  • The demographic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of rediscovery by sealers and whalers, and the enduring occupation of the islands by new settlers.
  • The condition of Moriori by 1870.

It reviews the Moriori struggle for survival which was set in motion by the herculean efforts and tactical genius of Hirawanu Tapu (1824-1900) and codified, a hundred years after his death, by settlement with the Crown.


How valuable is your river? Reconciling cultural, social, economic and environmental values in Australia’s largest river basin.

Friday 15 October 6.00pm 2021, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Professor Ross Thompson, Director at Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Australia.

The catchment management program in Australia’s Murray Darling Basin is one of the world’s largest, with a total cost to date of more than $16 billion. The challenges facing water systems globally, including those in New Zealand, include over- allocation of water, intensified due to the impacts of climate change. Attempts to restore environmental values of degraded river systems occur against a complex
backdrop that includes social disruption, competing demands for food and energy and the need for Indigenous reconciliation.

Professor Ross Thompson is Director of the Centre for Applied Water Science and co-Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. Ross is a freshwater ecologist with interests in the study of biodiversity and the restoration of landscapes. His fundamental research is in food web ecology, seeking to understand the rules that determine how natural communities assemble and persist. His applied research addresses the ways in which food webs are influenced by human factors including urbanisation, land clearance, pharmaceutical contamination, river flow diversion and restoration, and invasion. Ross is a New Zealander who began his research career at the University of Otago. He has sat on the NZ Marsden Panel and the Australian Research Council College of Experts. His work has strong links to government and industry, with positions on several senior technical advisory panels for local, state and federal research programs.



Bacteriophages to counter antibiotic-resistance (Title TBC)

Friday 19 November 2021 at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Simon Jackson, Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago.

Cost: $5 per person.

“New University of Otago research into how bacteria and their viruses interact and evolve could help pave the way for smarter health therapies, and counter antibiotic resistance.”

View full article in the ODT

View ‘Microbiology prize win’

The overall aim of my research group is to understand the interactions between bacterial viruses (phages) and their hosts. Currently, we are funded to study bacterial phage defence systems, such as CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems. With the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacterial pathogens, we urgently need to find new ways to treat bacterial infections. Exploiting phages as natural antimicrobials to kill bacterial pathogens, termed phage therapy, is a promising approach to address the AMR crisis. However, the success of phage therapy is dependent on understanding the complex interaction between phages and bacteria. To address these challenges, we use a combination of bioinformatic, comparative genomics and molecular biology approaches. In 2017, I was awarded the IlluminaTM Emerging Researcher Award, as the top New Zealand Molecular Biologist within 5 years of PhD completion.



Smoke, mirrors and aerosol: Bioengineering Healthier Lungs

Friday 25 February at 6.00pm 2022, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Kelly Suzanne Burrowes, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland.

The lungs are continuously exposed to the environment via the air (and other things) we breathe, making them susceptible to damage. As a result, respiratory diseases present a huge burden on society and their prevalence continues to rise. We are developing new methods to measure and understand lung function using computational modelling and development of new imaging methods. This talk will focus on a few different projects aimed at addressing the harm caused by cigarette smoking and COVID-19. These projects include the development of a digital platform to improve treatment of lung cancer, assessing the safety of electronic cigarettes or vaping, and creating a new device to measure airflow in mechanically ventilated patients.

Dr Kelly Burrowes is a Senior Researcher in Auckland University’s Bioengineering Institute. Her work focuses on developing new methods for measuring, predicting and understanding lung function, including computational modelling and the use of various imaging tools. She then brings these measurements together to understand the lungs and changes that occur due to disease, treatments, and exposure to e-cigarettes. After completing her PhD at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Kelly spent ten years at the University of Oxford with the Computational Biology Group before returning to the University of Auckland in 2016.

Thank you to the fine folks at Maori Point Wines, who generously donate award-winning central otago wine for our speakers.


Saving Our Lakes – What Can We Do?