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.

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


“Six Minutes of Terror” – the challenges and rewards of landing robotic spacecraft on Mars.

Friday 12 February at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Brian Pollard.
Cost – $5 per person.

Robotic landing on Mars has long been viewed as one of the most challenging engineering endeavours in space exploration.
The sequence from entry into Mars’ atmosphere to landing takes about 6 minutes, but with a 20 minute radio signal delay, there no possibility of ground intervention; each lander must safely navigate to the surface on its own.  Mars presents unique challenges, from extreme heating in the atmosphere, parachutes designed for the thin Martian atmosphere, novel methods to touch down softly and safely, all while navigating surface hazards like craters and rocks.  Historically, less than half of the international attempts have been successful.

In 2021, two very different landers arrive at the red planet:  the first Chinese attempted landing (Tianwen-1) is planned to occur mid-year, while the car-sized NASA Perseverance rover attempts to land on 18 February.  Learning from past attempts, each has a unique way to overcome the landing challenges.

In this talk, I’ll discuss my own experience in the history of robotic Mars landings, and the unique ways engineers have overcome some of the significant engineering challenges, with some particular observations from 2012’s fascinating Curiosity mission, the precursor to Perseverance.  I’ll also touch on the future of both international and commercial space missions to Mars, both robotic and crewed, and the implications for both space exploration and our day-to-day life on Earth.

Bio:  Dr. Brian Pollard spent 19 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on, among other things, a wide diversity of Mars landings, beginning with the Mars Exploration Rovers in 2003 up through the successful Curiosity “Sky-crane” landing in 2012.  Although he left JPL in 2017, he continues to work with international agencies and commercial companies on the development of instruments for space, earth, and underwater exploration.  


NZ Covid-19 Response (Title TBC)

Thursday 15 April at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.

Professor / Ahorangi Michael Baker.
Department of Public Health/Te Tari Hauora Tūmatanui.
University of Otago, Wellington/Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo ki Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara.

Cost – $5 per person.

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?