Top researchers and scholars are elected as Fellows of Royal Society Te Apārangi

Thirty-four new Fellows and Honorary Fellows have been elected to the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi for their distinction in research and advancement of science, technology or the humanities.

Being made a Fellow is an honour that recognises distinction in research, scholarship or the advancement of knowledge at the highest international standards. Fellows can use the post-nominal ‘FRSNZ’ after their name to indicate this honour.

Professor Charlotte Macdonald FRSNZ, Chair of the Academy Executive Committee, said the newly-elected Fellows have made contributions to knowledge at the highest levels in their different fields and across disciplinary boundaries.

“The election process is rigorous and new Fellows can be rightfully proud to be recognised by their peers in this way,” she said.

Among the new Fellows are –

  • Professor Andrew Allan, Plant & Food Research and University of Auckland

Andrew Allan has had many leadership roles, including Director of the Joint Graduate School linking Plant & Food Research and University of Auckland, where he has a joint appointment.

While contributing uniquely to the understanding of the metabolic control of pigmentation pathways, the genes he has described in publications are now used as markers in breeding apples, kiwifruit and other crops. Some thousands of seedlings continue to be screened using these markers.

His research has developed plants that undergo continuous flowering (apples, kiwifruit, and others) that promises to speed-up perennial plant breeding many times, ensuring his impact will continue to grow. This work forms the basis of his current MBIE-funded programme “The Flowering Crisis” which aims to understand the effect of warming temperatures on flowering, as well as educating the public on new technologies.

His programmes have specific objectives to enable Māori to inform the development, and be early adopters, of plants developed using these tools.

  • Mr Murray Close, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR)   

Murray Close has led pioneering research into groundwater contamination over the last 44 years. He has led multi-agency, multi-disciplinary research teams focussing on the transport and fate of a comprehensive range of contaminants in New Zealand groundwater systems, including pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, and nitrate, and has developed new methods for investigating the vadose zone.

His current research interests include the impacts of land use on groundwater quality, removal of nitrate from shallow groundwater using enhanced denitrification, and understanding groundwater ecosystems. He actively engages with regional and district councils throughout New Zealand who have the responsibility to manage groundwater resources. His research has advanced groundwater management practices for the regional councils by providing them with the necessary knowledge of groundwater systems and processes.

  • Professor Dorian Garrick, AL Rae Centre of Genetics and Breeding, Massey University

Dorian Garrick has made major research contributions to the theory and application of genetic evaluation for animal breeding. The challenge for informed selection is to obtain the best possible evaluation of a selection candidate’s merit, using all the available information.

Combining all available information into optimal and fully commensurate evaluations (“predictions”) of genetic merit or future performance is extremely complex and demanding. Garrick has substantially refined both the algorithms and the formidable calculations involved as available information on selection candidates has increased prodigiously in recent years, with enhanced data logging and an explosion of genomic information.

His work is remarkable not just for fundamental contributions to methodology but also for its national and international implementations, across a range of animal species: sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, poultry, and occasionally deer, horses and dogs. He has also engaged significantly with quantitative issues of plant improvement.

  • Professor Brett Robinson, University of Canterbury

Brett Robinson, and his research group, have made leading contributions to the understanding of fluxes of the chemical elements in the soil – water – plant continuum, and have applied this understanding to real-world challenges in agriculture and other land uses.

His research has had an impact, in New Zealand and overseas, on the health of food crops, the quality of agricultural soils and the management of contaminated sites. Examples include creating value from biological wastes, the rehabilitation of degraded soils, reducing the entry of contaminants such as cadmium into food products, and ensuring that the nutrients contained in biological wastes provide economic and ecological benefits instead of exacerbating the degradation of waterways.

He has developed environmental tools and technologies in collaboration with universities and research institutes throughout Europe, China, and New Zealand.

  • Professor Qiao Wang, Massey University  

Qiao Wang has made outstanding contributions to insect science and plant protection. His internationally renowned research on insect behaviour and biological control has advanced understanding of sexual selection, cue-induced reproductive investment, and parasitoid-host interactions, providing novel knowledge for development of behaviour-based and environmentally friendly pest management measures.

Wang is a world-leading authority of longicorn beetles, reflected in his book Cerambycidae of the World and other works, facilitating better detection and control of longicorn pests globally.

His discovery and introduction of parasitoids into the USA have successfully controlled an invasive longicorn pest there. He has also developed expert documents and identification tools on quarantine longicorns for the Ministry of Primary Industries.

His expertise has made major contributions to a quarantine pest regulation for the European Union and provided scientific evidence for a World Trade Organization recommendation on international market access. Furthermore, he has been appointed to various national and international expert panels and committees.

His research excellence has been ranked world-class several times by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission and recognised by the Entomological Society of America Distinguished Scientist Award.

The new Honorary Fellows include …

  • Professor Murray Grant, University of Warwick

Professor Murray Grant is internationally recognised for his seminal contributions in the field of molecular plant pathology. He has made landmark discoveries on the molecular and hormonal mechanisms that underlie plant disease and host defence.

His recent discovery of chloroplast immunity has provided new insight to how crop plants become susceptible to pathogens. This discovery opened up the new field of chloroplast immunity. A growing emphasis on translational research has provided new insights into ash dieback in UK, Phytophthora tree diseases in New Zealand and Europe and bacterial wilt disease of banana in Africa.

He served as a member of the ZESPRI/KVH scientific oversight committee to assist the kiwifruit industry after the devastating incursion of Psa into New Zealand in 2010.

He was an Honorary Researcher in the BioProtection Research Centre and delegate of two UK-NZ High Commission sponsored trade visits to New Zealand. These led to collaborations with a New Plymouth-based company that develops biologic formulations, and a major collaboration with Scion that stimulated the application of genomics to unravelling the origins of Phytophthora species and helped found the knowledge base that is now being applied to dieback of kauri.




Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog