Media Advisory August 01


The University of Waikato Winter Lecture Series kicks off this week with a session on high achievement. Transatlantic rower, Antarctic adventurer and University of Waikato alumnus Jamie Fitzgerald joins university lecturer Brett Smith and Pat Malcon of the Northern Districts Cricket Association for the first panel debate of the series on August 3. The panel will discuss a range of issues regarding sport and high achievement. Fitzgerald is dedicated to fostering excellence and leadership among students while Smith provides high performance monitoring for the New Zealand Elite Rowing Team. Next week’s session will see Waikato Management School’s Professor Mike Pratt speak on business lessons from high-performance sporting organisations. The University of Waikato Winter Lecture Series, titled This Sporting Life, is a series of five free public lectures on all things sporting. All talks run Wednesday evenings throughout August from 6pm to 7pm, at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts with parking available in Gate 2B off Knighton Rd, Hamilton.


An innovative University of Waikato website connecting scientists with schools has won a prestigious telecommunications award. The Science Learning Hub won the education category at the Telecommunications Users Association NZ (TUANZ) 2011 Innovation Awards held in Auckland recently. The awards honour innovation across New Zealand’s telecommunications sector. Project Co-Director, former Dean of the Faculty of Education and new Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones says, “This award is recognition of a long-term vision to connect school science with cutting-edge New Zealand science.” The Science Learning Hub promotes student interest and engagement in science by providing contemporary, contextualised resources online for teachers of Years 5–10. It features interactive thinking tools and multimedia collections including videos, interactives and time-lines. The website provides a unique link between science research organisations, educational research and science teachers. Students are also able to access the latest world-class research and can learn about everything from tsunamis, icy ecosystems to cycling aerodynamics. Visit the Science Learning Hub website by going to


A Star Wars homage film by University of Waikato Library staffer Sash Nixon has taken out the Best Acting award in the annual Lucasfilms Star Wars fan film competition. It’s the biggest fan film competition in the world, and the 22 finalists got the opportunity to put their work in front of Star Wars creator George Lucas himself. Shot partly in Waikato University’s Student Centre and partly by the Waikato River, Star Wars: Hunter was written and directed by Nixon, who also took the lead role of space adventurer Rek Daggard. The acting talents of Nixon and a group of Waikato students, including Hillary scholars Shoshana Sachi and Jeremy Mayall, certainly impressed the judges. Eight awards were made at a ceremony at the recent San Diego Comic-Con International, and Nixon was there in person to pick up his double droid statuette. See Star Wars: Hunter at


Too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry – the weather is one of the most talked about topics of all time. Hamilton’s August Café Scientifique event, held tomorrow August 2, is an opportunity to find out more about the weather, with a talk from MetService Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt. The weather enthusiast will discuss the isobar, present a quick history of barometers and give some handy hints for reading weather maps, followed by a question and answer session. McDavitt has been a meteorologist since 1975, forecasting for marine, aviation and the general media around New Zealand and in Fiji. In 1998 he was awarded the Henry Hill Award for his enthusiastic approach to sharing ideas about the weather. As Weather Ambassador for MetService, McDavitt has been in Auckland since 1992 focusing on promoting friendly relations with weather users. This involves communicating awareness about any incoming nasty weather, keeping an eye on the impact of the weather on the coming season and any special events, and arranging MetService promotions, displays, and exhibitions. He also helps sailors cruising around the South Pacific. Hamilton’s August Café Scientifique takes place at Café Français, 711 Victoria Street, Hamilton, at 7.30pm on Tuesday August 2. It is supported by the University of Waikato Faculty of Science and Engineering.


University of Waikato graduate student Hannah Cleland is looking into the effectiveness of the mental health services in Cambridge. Cleland, who is studying clinical psychology at Waikato, is doing her masters thesis on the experiences of users of Cambridge’s mental health services and whether they believe the services available are facilitating recovery. Her findings so far have shown that people who had a mild mental illness believed that the counselling services available in Cambridge are sufficient in meeting recovery needs. Likewise for those with severe mental illness who access services from DHB funded services. However, a number of participants who were identified as being in the moderately unwell range noticed that there were considerable gaps in the services available to them. Specifically access to services that are affordable as some did not meet the criteria for entry in DHB services. Other gaps included having a suitable location for services, a lack of consumer-run support services and some services not being recovery focused. Cleland says that she hopes her research will provide an avenue for users to have a voice on a topic which they are familiar with, but seldom have the opportunity to comment on.


Stretched ice-cream and liquid smoke are just some of the quirky foods being made at the University of Waikato next week. Guest speaker Professor Kent Kirshenbaum of New York University is giving a free public lecture on the chemistry and physics of food. His visit is part of his national tour to mark the inaugural International Year of Chemistry. Professor Kirshenbaum’s lecture will involve demonstrations including using industrial processes to turn cheese into airy delights. He will also have samples of new confectionary that he’s been working on. Professor Kirshenbaum’s presentation, which is supported by the Waikato Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, begins at 1pm on Tuesday August 9 and is held in the PricewaterhouseCoopers lecture theatre at the University of Waikato Hamilton campus. It is free and open to the public.


Detecting mouse footprints on a tracking card has won 15-year-old Laura Walker a night walk on Maungatautiri and dinner for two at Out in the Styx Guesthouse. Laura was one of the nearly 200 people who entered the University of Waikato competition at this year’s Fieldays to find the mouse footprints on a pre-printed card. Laura, who lives in Ohaupo, says she’s been on Maungatautiri before, but never at night, so she was pretty excited to hear she’d won the competition. The competition came about through a research project being carried out by computer science students at Waikato University. Jesse Champion, Michelle Clark and Michael Fowke came up with a novel way to combat predator problems in New Zealand native bush. They’ve created image recognition software to analyse small predator movements and have started working with the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust to count the number of mouse tracks on tracking cards used by conservationists in sanctuaries like Maungatautari. When the counting is done manually it takes hours and hours, but with software automation the delay between collecting and reading the cards is dramatically reduced. The information can be used to predict populations and characteristics such as the age of mice, and it means the pest control team can plan a more targeted response.


New Zealand’s 2011 Book of the Year was mostly written while its author was writer in residence at the University of Waikato. Chris Bourke’s Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music won book of the year and the people’s choice award at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards. The book took two years to research and another two to write, and Bourke says he wouldn’t have completed it if he hadn’t spent 2008 at Waikato. “It saved the project really. I did a good two-thirds of the writing there, and the library was a fantastic resource, especially the New Zealand collection. Just to be there on campus, to browse undisturbed and trip on little surprises.” Bourke did more than 50 interviews for the book and says the Waikato, and even more so, the Bay of Plenty provided some big names from the early jazz days. “Many of the people I talked to had great stories, but a hazy recollection of the facts. I had to do a lot of cross checking, but it was lovely seeing a sort of baton passing from musician to musician.” Bourke says he chose the title Blue Smoke because that was the first song to be written, recorded and released in New Zealand on a New Zealand-owned label.


Fossil fuel combustion is a major driving force behind climate change and while there is a need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels the market price does not reflect the true environmental cost. Carbon taxes: unpopular yet necessary? is the topic of discussion at the next University of Waikato Tauranga Café Scientifique held next week. Professor Riccardo Scarpa has been the chair of Environmental Economics at the University of Waikato since 2005 and will discuss why carbon tax may be the only way to make the world pay attention to the damage a dependency on fossil fuel is having on our planet. Café Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, and is supported by the University of Waikato Faculty of Science and Engineering to make science accessible to people outside the traditional academic context. The presentation will take place on Monday August 8 at Alimento, 72 First Avenue, Tauranga, starting at 7.30pm. All are welcome to attend.


Photographer Yvonne Todd has curated her own exhibition – the next show at Waikato University’s Calder and Lawson Gallery. The 15-piece exhibition is titled Self-medicating and features sinister looking buildings, dislocated footwear and a collection of strange characters from dolled-up pubescent girls to sleazy looking doctors. “Expect to feel uneasy looking at some of the photos,” says university art curator Karl Chitham. “She takes familiar subjects and makes them feel slightly creepy. At first it’s easy to dismiss them as cliché, but she takes these stereotypes from popular culture and skews them, and that makes the image uncertain.” The Self-medicating exhibition is a partnership project between the University of Waikato and University of Auckland and runs from August 13 until September 25.


Four years after his first sell-out performance in Hamilton, Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko is coming back to play. The man who’s been called the most physically powerful pianist around will play a solo concert at University of Waikato’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on Sunday August 21. Academy Manager Jeremy Bell says Demidenko has established himself as one of the world’s leading interpreters of the works of Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin. His programme at the Academy will include a first half of nocturnes by Chopin, Glinka, Kalinnikov and Blumenfeld, and a second half devoted to Liszt, culminating in the Sonata in B Minor, now regarded as the pinnacle of Liszt’s repertoire. Tickets for the Hamilton concert are $50 for A reserve, $45 for B reserve and $15 for children. Tickets are available from Ticketek and the Gallager Academy of Performing Arts on Knighton Road, Gate 2B.


The University of Waikato hosts the next Royal Society of New Zealand Aronui lecture, taking place next week. The lecture, titled The Mysterious Maya: An ancient American civilisation, is presented by Professor Norman Hammond, a Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at Boston University and Associate in Maya Archaeology at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. The Maya created one of the New World’s most surprising and accomplished civilisations in the tropical forest of Central America and over a period of 2500 years, they moved from simple villages of maize farmers to great cities with impressive temples and palaces, adorned with sculptures and paintings. Inscriptions in Maya hieroglyphics recorded history and the passage of time to the precise day and The Great Cycle of the Maya calendar says the world will end on December 23 2012. By AD 900 most of the cities were abandoned, afflicted by overpopulation, warfare and drought, but Maya culture, and the Maya people, have survived into the 21st Century. This free public lecture begins at 7pm on Friday August 12 and is held at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Waikato. Registrations to attend can be made at

This page has been reformatted for printing.