Upcoming Talks

October 2022
Oct 14
14 October 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Presbyterian Community Centre, 94 Tenby Street
Wanaka, New Zealand

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 […]

November 2022
Nov 18
18 November 2022 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Presbyterian Community Centre, 94 Tenby Street
Wanaka, New Zealand

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.


Past Talks

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.


How should society prepare for advances in Artificial Intelligence?

Friday 4 Aug 2017, 6.00pm, Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka. Assoc. Prof. Alistair Knott, Department of Computer Science, University of Otago. Alistair Knott is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science department at the University of Otago. He studied Psychology and Philosophy at Oxford University, then took a MSc and PhD in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh. He is an expert on human language modelling, and has published over 90 papers in this area. His book ‘Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax’ (MIT Press, 2012) was called ‘a ground-breaking and foundation-building look at the underpinnings of

Stem cells today: new ventures in science and potential for medical treatments

Friday 30 June 2017, 6.00pm, Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka. Dr Jim Faed, Senior Lecturer, Department of Pathology (DSM), University of Otago. Stem cells are present in all living tissues. They are small populations of cells, specific to each tissue, that continue to provide replacements throughout life for injured or senescent cells. Identification of these cells and characterising their behaviour has been a major challenge. They are not always easy to identify or collect, and in some cases, it is still not possible to prepare purified stem cell populations. Apart from the fundamental challenge of understanding the biology

Urban ecological restoration: the new frontier?

Friday 12 May 2017, 6.00pm, Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka Professor Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Charles Fleming Lecture New Zealand has a long and enviable record in conservation biology, which began with Wildlife Service efforts to save endemic birds from extinction by protecting them on offshore islands. This progressed to ecosystem restoration in mainland sanctuaries across the country but mostly on lands administered by the Department of Conservation. In the last two decades the research and practice of ecological restoration has expanded into degraded urban environments, which present a different set of constraints and

The Magnitude 7.8 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake: What we saw and what we learned

Friday 31 March 2017, 6.00pm, Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka Professor Mark Stirling, Inaugural Professor of Earthquake Science, Otago University Abstract I will provide an overview of the seismology, surface ruptures and landslides produced by the Mw7.8, 14 November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, and discuss the earthquake in the context of the current version of the national seismic hazard model (NSHM) for New Zealand.  A total of 13 faults or fault zones ruptured along a c. 180km long zone during the earthquake, including some that were unknown prior to the event. The earthquake was a remarkable event, both for the complexity of


Friday 24 February at 7.30 pm in the Lake Wanaka Centre. VIDEOS OF MEETING Video1: Video2: Video3: Video4: Video5: The meeting will seek to provide an overview of all the research, actions and activities that are or need to be directed at guarding the health of the lakes and catchments. It will bring together those organisations which are vital to developing appropriate research questions supported by proper monitoring, and effective preventive or remedial actions if and where required. The meeting will include presentations by Professor David Hamilton, Waikato University and Dr Marc Schallenberg, University of Otago. They will describe the present

Enabling the Solar Revolution

Monday 13 February, 2017, 6.00pm, Presbyterian Church Hall, 91 Tenby St, Wanaka. By Henry Snaith FRS, University of Oxford, and Professor Justin Hodgkiss, Deputy Director, MacDiarmid Institute. This year will see us capture more of our energy needs from sunlight than ever before. The phenomenal growth in global photovoltaic capacity has taken even the most optimistic observers by surprise, yet its consistent doubling every two years is a hallmark of how technologies scale. The impact we are beginning to see today is built on silicon photovoltaic technology that is over twenty years old. Since then, scientists have been searching for

The Science and politics of alcohol restrictions to reduce assault: three Australian case studies

Thursday 20 October 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. Professor Kypros Kypri, School of Medicine & Public Health, The University of Newcastle, Australia Regulating pub trading hours has long been viewed as effective violence prevention. Until recently, however, the evidence base was limited to studies showing increased harm when trading hours were liberalised, and of restrictions applied in unusual conditions, e.g., remote communities. In response to complaints from the police and the community, pubs were required to close at 3am (rather than 5am) in the NSW city of Newcastle from 2008. The nature of the intervention created

Rutherford Lecture

Friday 30 September 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. Professor Ian Reid, Department of Medicine, University of Auckland. Ian is the RSNZ Rutherford Medal recipient and winner of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize for 2015. He will present his research into the role of calcium and vitamin D metabolism in bone disease.


Friday 26 August 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced materials and Nanotechnology – Regional Lecture Series. Dr. Duncan McGillivray, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland. Dr. Natalie Plank, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington. For over 200,000 years humans used stone hand adzes, and the design hardly changed. It seems homo sapiens sapiens is by nature conservative. But eventually, some stone age entrepreneur attached a wooden shaft to the adze, multiplying its power, and no doubt vastly reducing mortality rates among hunters. We define the periods of civilisation

Ten things you need to know about climate change

Friday 5 August 2016. 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. Professors James Renwick and Tim Naish, Victoria University, Wellington. Their talk will be based on the two recent climate change reports issued by RSNZ but it will be pitched at a very general audience and will be suitable for all members of the public including senior school students. They will frame their talk around 10 powerpoint slides allowing plenty of time for questions and where appropriate, will be making some aspects of the talk relevant to your region. They briefly describe themselves: Tim Naish is a Professor

Gravitational waves: black holes & the ‘Big Bang’

Friday 8 July 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. Professor Richard Easther, Department of Physics, University of Auckland. Gravitational waves: Black Holes and the ‘Big Bang’. Professor Easther is a Kiwi from Hamilton who studied at the University at Canterbury and has worked at universities in Japan and the United States. Richard and his family moved home to New Zealand in 2011, where he is now Professor and Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland. Richard is a cosmologist who works on understanding how the universe evolved from the Big Bang through to

Stories of Innovation – a Dunedin based company’s successes in researching, designing and manufacturing industrial robots.

Friday 24th June 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St Wanaka. Admission $5. Andrew Arnold, General Manager, Scott Technology Ltd, Dunedin. Title: Stories of Innovation – a Dunedin based company’s successes in researching, designing and manufacturing industrial robots. Scott Technology Ltd researches, designs and manufactures automated production and process machinery. They are widely recognised as a world-class builder of advanced automation systems (robots), particularly for customers in the appliance manufacturing, meat processing and superconductor sectors.

The conservation, ecology and breeding strategy of a rare and threatened species (the Southern Crested Grebe) in Lakes Wanaka and Hayes

Friday 6th May 6pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby Street, Wanaka Admission $5 John Darby, Retired zoologist, Guardian of Lake Wanaka, Committee member of Wanaka Branch RSNZ. Records indicate that grebes (a rare and threatened species in NZ) first attempted to breed in the Roys Bay area in 2011-12 without success. Surveys of grebes beginning in 2013 on Lake Hayes, Dunstan and Wanaka were carried out with a view to gaining an understanding of the behaviour and breeding ecology of this species. Management of the species involved the design, building and management of artificial nest sites. The first of these was

NASA Balloon Project

Friday 18th March 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St Wanaka. Admission $5. Debora Fairbrother, Chief of the NASA Balloon Program Office (BPO) and Project Manager, NASA Balloon Project, Wanaka. Title: NASA’s Scientific Balloon Programme Debora will present an overview of NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program covering topics such as the capabilities of the program, the type of science NASA conducts on these balloons, as well as the unique aspects of the Super Pressure Balloon, which is the type of balloon we launch from Wanaka. These balloons are enormous launch vehicles—fully inflated, they are the size of a football stadium! They

Contemporary international migration to the regions: it is not just an Auckland story

Friday 11th March 6 pm, Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. Contemporary international migration to the regions: it is not just an Auckland story. Professor Richard Bedford QSO, FRSNZ, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Richard is Emeritus Professor at the University of Waikato and Professor of Migration at the Auckland University of Technology. He is a specialist in migration research and since the mid 1960s he has been researching processes of population movement in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1990 Professor Bedford was awarded the New Zealand Medal for services to New Zealand and in 2007 he received the

Evolution of the body snatchers, or the secret lives of parasites

Friday 19th February 6 pm, Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St Wanaka, $5 admission. Evolution of the body snatchers, or the secret lives of parasites. Professor Robert Poulin Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin. Although they account for maybe half of current biodiversity, parasites are often ignored by biologists because they are small and generally not visible, but also because of their repugnant lifestyle. However, far from the degenerate organisms running counter to progressive evolution often depicted in textbooks, parasites display some remarkably sophisticated adaptations allowing them to better exploit their hosts and complete their life cycle. Using examples drawn

Making Light Work

Friday 23rd October, 6 pm, Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby St. Admission $5 Associate Professor Cather Simpson, Director, The Photon Factory, University of Auckland Today, lasers correct your vision, record your purchases, weld power train components in your car, and much more. In this Ten by Ten talk marking the International year of Light, Cather Simpson shows the ‘cutting edge’ of high-tech lasers from the factory floor to the inventor’s bench, and peeps over the horizon at the future of laser manufacturing.

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere But Which One Is Safe To Eat

Professor Peter Shepherd, University of Auckland. Friday 4th September 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. Professor Peter Shepherd will demystify the science behind the many different types of sugar that we have in our diet. He will go on to show how too much sugar causes problems for our body and go through what we now know about how obesity develops and how we might successfully address this problem in the modern world. Is coconut sugar really good for you ? Are fizzy drinks bad for you ? What does Stevia do ? Its not as simple

Flowers in the fridge: Floral Biology in New Zealand Alpine and Subantarctic Zones

Dr Janice Lord, Department of Botany/Genetics Otago, University of Otago (RSNZ Leonard Cockayne Fund Recipient). Friday 28th August 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission. The flowers of high latitude and high altitude plants are often less coloured and smaller compared with relatives from warmer climates, a phenomenon commonly thought to relate to a reduced reliance on biotic pollination. The NZ alpine flora is particularly famous for its abundance of small, pale flowered species. However, as noted by Leonard Cockayne, bright flower colours are, surprisingly, more common among sub-antarctic plants compared with their mainland relatives. Recent work in

The Civilisation of Angkor

Professor Charles Higham, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago. Friday 7th August 6 pm, Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission It was in the late 16th century that Portuguese missionaries discovered the largest pre-industrial city in the world, in the jungles of Northern Cambodia. The city was deserted and much of its story had been lost over time. Uncovering the secrets of Angkor has attracted the attention of the world’s scholars and students throughout the world as its hidden secrets have been revealed using traditional archaeological methods combined with the latest technological developments. One person above all