Soil scientist is awarded Zonta Science Award 2024

Dr Hadee  Thompson-Morrison has been awarded the Zonta Science Award 2024.

The award reccoginises her exceptional dedication to advancing scientific research, particularly in the realm of sustainable resource management and ecosystem conservation.

The Zonta Club of Wellington announced the award, describing Dr Thompson-Morison as a passionate advocate for the sustainable management of natural resources and the conservation of unique ecosystems.  Her academic career has been driven by a profound commitment to making a positive impact on environmental sustainability.

Dr. Thompson-Morrison’s research plan focuses on further developing and applying a model she developed during her PhD studies at the University of Canterbury, which predicts the accumulation of trace elements in soils.

This innovative model aims to safeguard soils against potentially toxic elements, and ensure effective nutrient composition, thereby enhancing soil fertility, crop growth, and human health.

Through her proposed research, Dr. Thompson-Morrison seeks to advance understanding of biogeochemical processes in the soil-plant system, leading to improved agricultural practices and ecosystem health.

Dr Thompson-Morrison is hailed as a staunch advocate for women in science and promotes healthy work-life balance within the scientific community. She actively engages in outreach activities to disseminate her research findings and communicate with diverse audiences, including media outlets, international universities, and community groups.

The University of Canterbury website –  recording her studies towards a PhD in Environmental Science (2019-2022) – notes that New Zealand is a large consumer of palm kernel expeller (PKE), a supplementary stockfeed used on some dairy farms, which is produced primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Current research on the trace element fluxes in both PKE-production systems and PKE-receiving environments (including New Zealand dairy farms) is lacking, “and filling this knowledge gap may be instrumental in improving the efficiency of New Zealand’s agricultural systems and ensuring compliance with human and animal health standards.”

Many New Zealand soils are deficient in trace elements such as copper, cobalt, selenium and iodine, which mean livestock supplements are a necessary cost for livestock farming. PKE may provide an effective and cost-efficient supplement stockfeed in place of traditional supplements.

Conversely, if PKE contains excessive levels of certain trace elements, there may be potential for soils under repeated exposure to accumulate these trace elements leading to legacy issues in the future, if not managed suitably in the present.

The university website records Dr Thompson-Morrison as saying:

“Currently there are very few replicable studies investigating trace element fluxes in agricultural systems both producing and utilizing PKE. My research seeks to determine which trace elements PKE contains, and whether they are largely absorbed by dairy cattle or passed through the animal onto soil when used in New Zealand. My research is intended to lead to an improved understanding of trace element fluxes in both PKE-producing systems, and receiving dairy farming systems, and thus create opportunities for improved efficiency and sustainability.”

Sources: Scoop and University of Canterbury

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog