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


Moriori – assuredly a story worth telling.

Date to be confirmed. 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 bacteria protect themselves from viruses and how we might use this knowledge to overcome antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Friday 19 November at 6.00pm 2021, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Simon Jackson, Senior Research Fellow,
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Te Tari Moromoroiti me te Ārai Mate,
University of Otago, Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo

Cost: $5 per person.

Bacteria are found in almost all environments on earth and play essential roles in the function of ecosystems. However, bacteria are under constant threat from viruses known as bacteriophages — originating from the Greek meaning “to devour bacteria”. These bacteriophages outnumber bacteria by ten to one, infecting more than 1025 bacteria per second globally. To protect themselves from these infections, bacteria have evolved a diverse arsenal of antiviral immune systems. Our research aims to understand what immune systems bacteria possess and how they function.

Understanding how bacterial immune systems function is critical to enabling future applications of bacteriophages to overcome major global challenges in health and agriculture. For example, many bacteria that cause disease are becoming highly resistant to antibiotics. A potential solution is to use bacteriophages to selectively kill these antibiotic-resistant superbugs — an approach called phage therapy. Here, I will present an overview of what future bacteriophage-based precision medicines might look like and how our research advances this field.

View full article in the ODT

View ‘Microbiology prize win’

My research aims to understand the molecular and genetic interactions between bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) and their hosts. With the rise of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens, we urgently need to find new ways to treat infections. Exploiting phages as precision antimicrobials to kill bacterial pathogens, termed phage therapy, is a promising therapeutic approach. However, the success of future widespread phage therapy depends on understanding the complex interaction between phages and bacteria. To address these challenges, my team apply a multidisciplinary approach spanning bioinformatics, bacterial genetics and molecular biology.

In 2012, I completed a PhD at Otago in the Biochemistry Department, studying how photosynthesis uses light to split water and produce oxygen, followed by a two-year career development fellowship. In 2015, I moved to the group led by Prof. Peter Fineran in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Otago, researching CRISPR-Cas bacterial adaptive immune systems. In 2018, I was awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant, from the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi, to study a new type of hybrid CRISPR-Cas immune system and progressed to a Research Fellow position. I was recently promoted to Senior Research Fellow and received funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to research the use of bacteriophages in agriculture with the aim of reducing nitrogenous fertilizer requirements for pastoral farming.


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?