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University of Waikato receives nearly $10 million in MBIE Research Funding

4 September 2015

David Hamilton

Professor David Hamilton's lakes work will continue with more than $5m MBIE funding.

The University of Waikato has received nearly $10 million in new funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The funding was announced by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

The University of Waikato received funding for four research projects out of a total of 48 projects that were awarded from a pool of nearly $97 million (including GST).

The announcement confirms the university's standing as a leading research organisation in New Zealand.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says the amount of MBIE funding received by Waikato is a reflection of the high quality of research being carried out at the University.

"This is a wonderful result for the University of Waikato and is an acknowledgement of the quality and innovation that characterises research at Waikato. The University is committed to providing solutions to the problems and challenges that exist in our environment and the economy."

The largest of the four projects awarded was to Professor David Hamilton who receives $5.1 million in new funding to continue his lakes research.

Professor Hamilton is the Chief Science Officer for Lake Ecosystem Restoration New Zealand (LERNZ) and will use the funding to continue his work, which has contributed greatly to the improved water quality in the Rotorua lakes.

Professor Hamilton says the work will enable decision makers and managers to achieve environmental limits outlined in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and to improve the ecological integrity of lakes throughout New Zealand. 

"The ultimate aim of this research is to assist stakeholders to prioritise actions and expenditure to achieve environmental limits and restore the ecological integrity of lake ecosystems."

The University of Waikato funding

$5,136,708 – 4 years - Enhancing the health and resilience of NZ lakes - Professor David Hamilton. 

$2,409,172 – 4 years  - Cretaceous tectonic transition from convergence to extension in NZ Implications for basin development, paleogeography and hydrocarbon plays – Professor Peter Kamp.

$1,206,390 – 3 years - Remote Sensing, Classification and Management Guidelines for Surf Breaks of National and Regional Significance – Associate Professor Karin Bryan.

$1,000,000 – 2 years - Engineering high value enzymes using forward and reverse evolution – Professor Vic Arcus.

Enhancing the health and resilience of New Zealand lakes

The three aims of this research are (1) improved in-lake models and visualisation technologies to predict environmental outcomes, (2) cost-effective data-capture to support predictions of ecosystem response to management alternatives, and (3) application and prioritisation of in-lake interventions required to achieve management goals. The outcome of this research will be widespread improvements in knowledge and capability of stakeholders to prioritise actions (including in-lake and from policy to interventions) and expenditure aimed at achieving environmental limits and restoring ecological integrity of lake ecosystems, including intermittently closed and open lakes and lagoons (ICOLLs).

Cretaceous tectonic transition from convergence to extension in NZ Implications for basin development, paleogeography and hydrocarbon plays 

The aim of the new research programme is to develop a modern understanding of the tectonic environment in which Cretaceous basins formed and were infilled. This involved the end of a long period of subduction beneath eastern Gondwanaland when New Zealand lay adjacent to Australia-Antarctica and basins formed in zones of compression and crustal shortening with elevated topography. The new data and information will provide a regional context and understanding that will assist exploration companies in their exploration efforts, which are typically undertaken in permit areas that lie with sedimentary basins.

Remote Sensing, Classification and Management Guidelines for Surf Breaks of National and Regional Significance 

The objective of this project is to build a knowledge base and to develop management guidelines for New Zealand's nationally and regionally significant surf breaks. Policy 16 of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS) provides a legislative framework that identifies and calls for the protection of surf breaks of national and regional significance by ensuring that activities in the coastal environment do not adversely affect the surf breaks and by avoiding adverse effects of other activities on access to, and use and enjoyment of the surf breaks.

This research will be accomplished by establishing a network of remote sensing monitoring stations at selected surf breaks, undertaking detailed analysis of new observations, incorporating existing knowledge and feedback from end users and stakeholders via workshops, using the information to develop guidelines for resource management, and finally making our database and findings freely accessible through an online portal and website.

Engineering high value enzymes using forward and reverse evolution

Life has evolved to occupy almost every conceivable niche on the planet including niches in extreme environments such as hydrothermal vents, arctic soils and deep underground. All of life depends on enzymes which catalyse a vast array of chemical reactions and these catalytic properties have been harnessed by industry. The global enzyme market is now worth approximately $15 billion annually. We have developed evolutionary tools to prospect for enzymes from ancient niches that no longer exist (ancestral niches) and thus, we have been able to make ancestral enzymes in the lab that are entirely new using this 'reverse evolution' approach. We will now combine reverse evolution with more conventional forward evolution and modern enzyme engineering to refine our enzymes so that their properties are optimal for the desired application.


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