First Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for Waikato University
11 November 2016
The University of Waikato has been awarded its first Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.
The fellowship was awarded to School of Science Senior Lecturer Dr Adam Hartland who has been granted $800,000 over five years for his project “Unlocking the karst record: quantitative proxies of past climates from speleothems”.
Dr Hartland’s study addresses the need to find new ways of working out the exact range of past rainfall and air temperature variations over the recent geological past (up to the last 10,000 years).
“The Fellowship will massively enhance my ability to drive my own research, giving me the time to focus on developing new insights while providing flexible funding to follow these lines of enquiry,” says Dr Hartland. “It is a huge honour to be awarded the Rutherford and I’m sure it will leave an indelible imprint on my career.”
Using new approaches including trace elements and magnetism, the project will develop new records of the past climate of our region, focusing on the major climate mode of El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Combining cave monitoring, laboratory experiments and cutting-edge geochemical measurements, the new records produced will alter the existing understanding of cave science and the climate of this region.
“Caves can be thought of as nature’s vaults,” says Dr Hartland. “They contain archives of Earth’s past climate in deposits collectively termed speleothems. Common examples are stalagmites and stalactites, but many other cave formations can provide valuable insights which can inform our understanding of how our environment changes through time.
“Speleothems offer many advantages: they record information at high time resolution (from months to years, to decades) and can form continuously for many millennia. They can be dated very precisely using radio-isotopes, and they give us information from the major landmasses where people live. Speleothems can provide information on climatic changes of greatest relevance to human civilisations, and can inform the changes our climate is likely to show in the coming decades resulting from human activities.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Bruce Clarkson said the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship was a great achievement for Dr Hartland, and for the University.
“Given Adam’s efforts to hone his presentation based on the mock interview we held, I’m not surprised by his success. This award is highly sought after and he clearly made a compelling case to the panel.”
Dr Hartland came to the University of Waikato in December 2012 as a Lecturer, having completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in groundwater geochemistry at Australia’s University of New South Wales. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Geochemistry at Waikato in 2014.
Ten Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, which are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, are awarded on a competitive basis annually for research based in a New Zealand host institution. The Fellowships support the development of future research leaders, and assist with the retention and repatriation of New Zealand’s talented early- to mid- career researchers.