University of Waikato researchers receive record-level Marsden funding to explore bold ideas for the future

The University of Waikato reaches a milestone in Marsden funding, boasting its highest funding total and the second-largest number of projects funded in its history.

02 Nov 2023

The University of Waikato is celebrating its most successful Marsden funding round yet. The Royal Society Te Apārangi has granted funds to 12 Waikato research proposals, collectively valued at $9.056 million. This marks the highest total funding received by the University and the second-largest number of projects ever to be funded.

Regarded as the hallmark of excellence for research in New Zealand, The Marsden Fund supports researchers in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities to explore bold ideas that can have significant impact on the future of their discipline.

Professor Karin Bryan, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, says this record funding result will enable researchers to make advances in areas important to the future of society and our planet.

“This is a fantastic result for the University, showcasing research excellence and new collaborations across all levels from early career to professorial. I also acknowledge the outstanding support provided by our Research and Enterprise office.”

“From advancing understanding of marine ecology, protecting our environment from climate change and related challenges through to building more equitable societies where Indigenous identities and perspectives are valued, the successful research projects cover a range of highly pertinent issues at both a local and global level.”

Fourteen Waikato researchers have been awarded Marsden Fund Standard Grants for nine projects:

Three researchers from the University were awarded Marsden Fund Fast Start Grants, funds especially reserved for emerging researchers:

Understanding cross-boundary effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning

Biodiversity is in decline globally. Principal Investigator Dr Burdon and Associate Investigator Dr Barnes are exploring a new frontier in ecology: how biodiversity influences functioning across ecosystems. Their study will investigate the intimate connections between riparian zones and stream ecosystems mediated by food-web linkages. Their work will improve our ability to conserve, restore and manage key flora, fauna and ecosystems at local and larger spatial scales.

Turning up the heat on soil food webs: will global warming erode ecosystem resilience?

Dr Barnes will lead his own investigation into how global warming and other climate change impacts like drought could threaten the resilience of ecosystems. Few studies have considered the combined influence of interacting climate disturbances, which are expected to be more common in the future. With co-Principal Investigator Dr Alster (Lincoln University) and Professor Schipper, Dr Barnes will look at soil ecosystems and the complex network of interacting organisms within the soil from microbes to insects. Working alongside mana whenua they’ll use geothermally heated soil plots in the central North Island as a model of global warming. Shelters will be used to keep rain out to simulate a drought event.

Picturebooks in Aotearoa: the design and content of picturebooks reflecting indigenous language, culture and evolving national identities

Dr Daly, Associate Professor in Te Kura Toi Tangata School of Education Operations, leads a project opening a new field of research by exploring best practice for authentic, respectful representations of Indigenous languages and identities throughout the publishing process.  Associate Investigators include University of Waikato linguist Dr Barbour, and Dr Vanderschantz from the School of Design.

History in the making: memories for historical offences

Professor Garry, alongside Professor Rachel Zajac, University of Otago, is investigating how adults remember childhood abuse, how investigators might shape those memories, and how jurors evaluate these historical claims.

Could land aridification supercharge summertime warming rates in a maritime climate like Aotearoa?

Land warms faster than oceans, and existing projections suggest Aotearoa will warm more slowly due to our surrounding oceans. However, in recent years observational studies show rapid warming of the country across mid to late summer. Principal Investigator Dr Harrington with Associate Investigators Dr Campbell and Dr Peter Gibson (NIWA) are testing their hypothesis that atmosphere interactions from drying land will accelerate warming at spatial scales smaller than current models can predict.

Predicting the mutational trajectories behind viral zoonotic events

Zoonotic viruses like coronavirus can mutate and move from animals to humans. Using advances in protein engineering and machine learning, applied immunologist Dr Kelton is building an approach to predict how likely it is for emerging viruses in animals to jump across to humans – before they have the opportunity to do so. He’ll use coronaviruses as a model for the work.

Marine inequality and environmental demise: Identifying imperial borders in ocean governance

Situated at the intersection of marine anthropology and critical anti-colonial studies, Dr McCormack’s research in New Zealand, Hawai’i, Iceland and Ireland will build knowledge on the transnational attributes shaping contemporary ocean governance.  Drawing on the concept of ‘border imperialism’, her project investigates how marine regimes and economies travelled via the complex machinations of European worldviews, to re-imagine and re-direct localised relations to fish.

What are the key predictors of invasion success?

Dr McGaughran is testing the hypothesis that more invasive species and populations have, or rapidly evolve to possess, a greater range of genetic and outward physical innovations that enable their success in new environments. She’ll work with endemic and introduced invasive blowflies to determine what it takes to be a successful invader.

He rau ringa: Engaging ethnic communities in a Tiriti o Waitangi-centred framework of sustainable citizenship

A team of ethnic and Māori researchers with collaborative expertise in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and sustainable citizenship, Professor Munshi, Professor Kurian and Professor Morrison,are working to theorise a distinct vision for Aotearoa of cultural plurality and citizenship based on Treaty notions of equity, justice and inclusion.

Chamorus diasporic routes: sharing our elders' stories from Sanlagu

Following World War II, the United States’ colonial control over the Mariana Islands influenced and normalised the military as the most feasible economic option and career choice for the Indigenous population, the Chamorus. This in turn influenced outward migration of Chamorus to militarised US cities.

Lecturer of Pacific and Indigenous Studies, Dr Bennett, will conduct the first archival research and in-depth interviews of Chamorus that migrated in the post-war period. The online exhibition and digital archive aim to disrupt and add to decolonisation narratives that build towards Indigenous self-determination.

How do genomic architecture and adaptive capacity influence species range limits?

The geographic spread of species varies greatly, but ecological and abiotic factors are known to constrain species distribution. Understanding factors that govern species range is an unanswered question in ecology. Recent research shows that genetics play a role in spread. Dr Parvizi is looking at different genetic aspects in native and invasive sea squirts across New Zealand, trans-Tasman and Antarctica to understand if different species are pre-adapted for range expansion because of their genetics.

The project will add to our understanding of native taonga species and shed light on the capacity of species to adapt and shift their range in the face of rapid climate change. Dr Parvizi will work with Associate Investigator Dr McGaughran and be mentored by Professor Craig Cary.

The shapes of our stories: examining the occurrence and function of emotional trajectories in autobiographical memories

Most stories in Western fiction follow one of six rising and falling narratives. Psychological science suggests these narratives shape the emotional trajectories of our autobiographical stories, in part to aid our communication with each other. Dr Sanson will investigate how and when we draw on these emotional trajectories in the retelling of our memories.

This groundbreaking work will help the scientific community better understand the function of our memories and the relationships among emotional trajectories, mental health and wellbeing.

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