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


Aurora chasing around and above New Zealand

Friday 28 May at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Ian Griffin, Director of Otago Museum, Dunedin.

Cost: $5 per person.

Since first observing the southern lights a week after he moved to Dunedin seven years ago, Ian Griffin has become obsessed with the aurora australis. On clear nights he can be found on the back bays of the Otago Peninsula trying to experience the aurora’s subtle glow.

Ian’s fascination with the southern lights has led to a number of adventures. These include being cautioned for speeding by an unsympathetic police officer during the best auroral display of the past ten years, and chartering four Air New Zealand airliners to fly thousands of kilometres south of Aotearoa deep into the southern auroral zone. During this talk Ian will share some stories from his secret life as an aurora addict.

When not chasing auroras Ian is the Director of the Otago Museum in Dunedin. He has a PhD. In astronomy from University College London and has discovered more than 20 asteroids including 10924 which is named to honour his wife Maria. In 2015 Ian was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize and in 2019 he became a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Ian Griffin has been Director of Otago Museum since 2013. Under Ian’s leadership the Museum has had a greater focus on the collection and science engagement which has led to increased use of the collection for research and greater access for communities; and thousands of people from across Otago, wider New Zealand, and when possible the Pacific nations, engaged in a wide variety of science-based experiences that aim to educate and inspire lifelong learning.

Another major focus has been making the Museum’s buildings fit for the future and financial sustainability. Under Ian’s directorship the Museum has seen major upgrades of plant and equipment, installation of the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium, the only 3D planetarium in Australasia, and the Tūhura Otago Community Trust Science Centre, the largest science centre in New Zealand.

Ian has previously been director at the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory in Florida and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. He has also served as chief executive officer of Stardome in Auckland, head of public outreach at NASA and chief executive of the Oxford Trust.

Having a PhD in astronomy, Ian has a passion for photographing aurora, comets and constellations. He writes a weekly column in the Otago Daily Times and is a strong advocate for the preservation of Dunedin’s dark skies. In recognition of his contribution to science communication in New Zealand, Ian was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication prize in 2015, and in June 2019 was made a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.


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.


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.


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?