Upcoming Talks

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Past Talks

November 2022
Nov 18
18 November 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Colin Townsend, University of Otago

You may not be surprised to learn that if New Zealand’s rivers were to be placed end to end they would total 9,471 km in length. But did you know that the streams that feed those rivers total more than 400,000 km! Did you know that the beds of such streams that have been reached by the introduced brown trout tend to be more slippery than those still occupied by native fish? Or that an ancient whitebait species became ‘landlocked’ into headwater streams of the South Island and evolved into 12 or more new non-migratory species? Or that streams whose beds are disturbed at an intermediate rate have a higher biodiversity than streams turned over by more frequent spates or not disturbed at all? Or which of the human-caused impairments (nitrogen, sediment, water abstraction, increased temperature) is most harmful to stream ecosystems? Well nor did I - until my research team started work three decades ago.

October 2022
Oct 14
14 October 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Associate Professor Arend Merrie MB ChB, PhD, FRACS, MInstD Arend trained in General Surgery in New Zealand gaining his Fellowship and a PhD on colorectal cancer in 2001. Following this […]

September 2022
Sep 30
30 September 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Professor Nick Long, Paihau-Robinson Institute, Victoria University of Wellington. Nick will introduce us to the key projects of Wellington’s Paihau-Robinson Research Institute, including transformers, MRI systems and high-speed motors for […]

August 2022
Aug 26
26 August 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

The talk will highlight the key aspects behind the phenomenal growth in Green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity) impacted by geopolitical and climate pressures driving a global shift in energy agendas.  The speaker will outline Fabrum's NZ developed  intellectual property and its impact internationally in developments spanning the future of aviation much of it underpinned by cryogenics, the storage of substances at very low temperatures, typically below -150C.

July 2022
Jul 29
29 July 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Speaker: Professor Keith Gordon, Department of Chemistry, University of Otago.

Vibrational spectroscopy is a potent method of analysing molecular structure within small volumes and at fast timescales.  In this presentation I will try to cover off three related but distinct areas of interest.

Firstly, I will discuss how using a suite of spectroscopic methods, and by studying a series of complexes (metal-based donor-acceptor systems) in which parameters are carefully controlled,1 it is possible to develop design principles for excited state properties such that one can enhance electronic absorption and increase excited state lifetimes.2  Useful properties in both solar cells3 and photocatalysis.  The understanding of how these properties, both ground and excited state, are modulated by driving force and effective conjugation is not straightforward.

Secondly, the use of computational chemistry in modelling properties of compounds has become ubiquitous in modern chemistry.  However these do not always predict molecular behaviour effectively and unpicking the extent of deviation between theory and experiment reveals some interesting problems in our reliance on computational methods.4 Our studies on the spectroscopy of donor-acceptor and π, π* systems highlight these issues.5

Finally, our experimental development, originally aimed at understanding ground and excited state properties of metal complexes and other donor-acceptor systems, has provided us with tools that are amenable to analytical spectroscopy.  These are critical techniques that can add value to products in New Zealand. I will outline some of these  in the study of primary produce and pharmaceuticals.  More recently we have used low-frequency Raman spectroscopy6 to evaluate crystallinity (and order in general) in structures as varied as solar cell polymers7 to active pharmaceutical ingredients.8 Our studies in these areas will also be described.

June 2022
Jun 17
17 June 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Speaker: 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.

May 2022
May 20
20 May 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Speaker: Dr Michael Price, Victoria University of Wellington.

Solar panels that convert light directly into electricity have come a long way since the discovery of the photovoltaic effect in 1839. Now, silicon-based solar panels are widespread, efficient, and cheaper than ever. However, for the world to meet its climate targets, we will need to generate a lot more solar power than we currently do – by 2030 we need to increase generation to at least ten times more than 2020 levels. New solar technologies could help us greatly in this energy transition. So what does the future of solar power look like?

In this talk I will give a brief history of solar technology. I will describe how solar panels currently work, and give an overview of where today’s cutting-edge physics, chemistry and materials science will lead us in the next few years. I will show how the work I am doing at Victoria University of Wellington will lead to the next generation of new solar panel materials, and talk about the creative ways materials scientists and device physicists will utilise our findings to create more tools for getting to a zero carbon future.

May 13
13 May 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Since its establishment more than 30 years ago, the NASA Balloon Program has provided high-altitude scientific balloon platforms for scientific and technological investigations, including fundamental scientific discoveries that contribute to our understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe. Balloons have been used for decades to conduct scientific studies. They can be launched from locations across the globe and are a low-cost method to carry payloads with instruments that conduct scientific observations. Recent developments in balloon design have allowed greatly extended flight durations, the current NASA target being 100 days aloft. Since 2017 Wanaka Airport has been a launch site, one of only seven world wide, uniquely positioned to capture the southern skies along latitude 45 south. This talk will describe both the balloon design and some of the science payloads carried and proposed.


Watching snow (melt?) from space

Friday 22 April at 6.00pm 2022, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Dr Todd Redpath, School of Geography and School of Surveying, University of Otago, University of Otago. Seasonal snow plays an important role in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of us enjoy skiing on it in the winter, but it also acts as a substantial reservoir of freshwater and performs important functions within the climate system. Snow is highly dynamic in time and space: once it settles on the ground it can be eroded and transported by the wind then re-deposited elsewhere, while rates of metamorphism and

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

Ian Taylor: The life of New Zealand’s great innovator

Friday 14 January at 6.00pm 2022, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Sir Ian Taylor, ‘One of New Zealand’s foremost technology innovators’. Note: Vaccine passes are required and will be checked at the door. Masks are encouraged. Sir Ian was named New Zealand Innovator of the Year in 2019 and received his knighthood in the 2021 New Year’s Honours. Based in Dunedin, his company Animation Research has spent the past three decades converting dry data into captivating visuals, particularly for major international sports events including America’s Cup regattas. The story of how he went from his childhood

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

Science for a Sustainable Future

Friday 12 November at 6.00pm 2021, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology – 2021 Regional Lecture Series. Looking forward: zero Carbon, zero waste, low energy computing and sustainable resource use. Associate Professor Carla Meledandri – Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute and an Associate Professor in Chemistry at the University of Otago. Her current research involves the use of colloidal and surface chemistry techniques to develop new functional nanoscale materials for a broad range of applications, from dentistry to energy storage. Dr Anna Garden – Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid

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

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

Aurora chasing around and above New Zealand

Friday 28 May 2021 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

The successful Covid-19 response in Aotearoa: What it teaches us about science-led decision making

Download a PDF of presentation (7.5MB) 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. This presentation will cover key aspects of the New Zealand response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will include a discussion of how the pandemic threat was assessed, the range of response options, why New Zealand chose an elimination strategy, and the impact of that choice. Michael will also talk about the importance

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

Friday 12 February 2021 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

Electric Vehicles

Friday 6 November at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Oana Jones, Full Dome producer at Otago Museum. Cost – $5 per person. New Zealand is in a unique position for the adoption of electric cars. With a lot of cheap imports, a majority of our power generation from renewable sources, and a national network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, EVs are becoming more and more of a popular option for motorists. In this talk, Oana will explore electric cars from a performance, environmental and financial point of view. Members of the local EV community will

Materials – Fact or Fiction

MacDiarmid Institute Regional Lecture Series 2020 Materials Fact or Fiction – Wanaka. Friday 23rd October, 6pm, at the Presbyterian Community Hall, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. In order to accommodate any further changes in alert levels due to COVID, this year’s showcase will be in a digital format, with the option to either attend in person at EIT should that be possible and your preference, or to dial in from your own device. Please register here if you wish to dial in and we will send you the appropriate link to do so. Baakonite – a composite metal alloy from Star


Friday 16 October at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Associate Professor James Scott, University of Otago, Geoscience Society of New Zealand President’s Lecture. Cost – $5 per person. Mars, fourth planet from the Sun, will be visited by three missions in February 2021. I will talk about what already known about the planet and we know it, and what is hoped to be found with the latest missions. Furthermore, although there have been no return missions from Mars, we do have Martian rocks on Earth available for study. How is this possible? I will bring

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

Wellbeing Policy: Past, Present, Future

Friday 7 August at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Professor Arthur Grimes, Chair of Wellbeing and Public Policy School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington. Cost – $5 per person. The New Zealand government has placed great store on a “wellbeing approach to policy”. In this talk I review antecedents of this approach stretching back to the enlightenment (and before). I then examine two modern approaches to wellbeing policy – based on concepts of subjective wellbeing and on capabilities. I explore the application of these ideas across a range of the social sciences including economics,

Expect the unexpected! Adventures in the icy world of quantum physics.

Friday 3 July at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Prof Joachim Brand, New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University. Cost – $5 per person. As temperatures fall, one might expect the physical world to become boring and lifeless. But realising ultra-cold temperatures in the laboratory, experimentalists can observe, manipulate and harness phenomena of quantum physics that are otherwise hidden in the microscopic structure of matter. In this talk I will introduce you to the physics of superfluids and show how laser-cooled atomic gases may hold the key to understand physical phenomena like high-temperature superconductivity,

Exploring the “dark matter” in cancer – towards a new therapeutic approach

Friday 24 April 6.00pm – 7pm. Online webinar (including question time) via Zoom. Connection details will be emailed to our branch members and anyone else who requests them – please email Dr Sarah Diermeier, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago. No cost. The past decades have seen striking progress in cancer diagnostics and treatment. Due to early detection and targeted treatments, cancer survival rates have increased significantly. However, the most aggressive types of cancer remain hard to tackle. The main cause of death in many cancer patients is due to the spread of tumours to distant organs, a process

Random walks in Climate Science at Bodeker Scientific

Friday 6 March at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Professor Greg Bodeker, Adjunct Professor at the Climate Change Research Institute. Cost – $5 per person. Link to Presentation Climate change remains the defining issue of our time. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the latest developments in climate science before diving into detail on a few of the climate change projects underway at Bodeker Scientific. These will include: 1) EWERAM: As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere, the resultant warming of the climate system changes the nature of extreme weather events

Our Lakes’ Health: Past, Present and Future

Friday 7 February at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Drs Marcus Vandergoes (GNS Science) & Susie Wood (Cawthron Institute) and the Lakes380 team. Cost – $5 per person. The health of our lakes is central to New Zealand’s environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing. Yet we cannot robustly assess the water quality or ecological health of our 3,800 (> 1 ha) lakes because over 95% of them are not monitored. Even for the few lakes that are monitored, datasets are short (

Alpine fault earthquake: Ground shaking and impacts

Tuesday 10 December at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka. Professor Brendon Bradley, College of Engineering, University of Canterbury/Director of QuakeCoRE. Cost – FREE – Everyone Welcome. Link to view presentation slides: Link to Simulation Atlas: What could an Alpine Fault earthquake feel like and how is world leading research in earthquake resilience helping us prepare? “We can’t predict when an earthquake will hit but we can predict how strong the ground shaking will be at certain geographic locations,” Professor Brendon Bradley says. His award-winning research is being used to set new international building