Media Advisory June 11


The University of Waikato is once again a strategic partner of the National Agricultural Fieldays. This year’s Fieldays theme is The Changing Face of Farming. As the key tertiary institution in the Waikato region - New Zealand’s agricultural heartland - the University of Waikato is part of that industry and is heavily involved in research relevant to the industry. At Fieldays the university has two stands, the Premier Feature Stand and a marquee with interactive exhibits. To follow the University of Waikato before and during Fieldays follow us on Facebook and twitter. Fieldays takes place this week, 13-16 June.


The University of Waikato graduation mascot, Mū, is putting the fun back into farming at Fieldays this year. The cuddly Friesian cow is the model for the main character in a new iPad game which will allow visitors to the university’s Fieldays stand to try their hand at dairy farming. Players aim to keep milk production up by grazing Mū in a paddock; however, they also have to watch out she doesn’t eat too much thistle or ragwort, and that she doesn’t bump into the electric fence too often. The game - complete with the catchphrase ‘Morning, girls!’ - has been specially developed by a group of Waikato students to fit with this year’s Fieldays theme of the changing face of farming. The university is a strategic partner of the National Agricultural Fieldays, and its stand in the Premier Feature area will also showcase university research and innovation that’s adding value to land-based industries. “The game’s been designed so you move Mū around the paddock by tilting the iPad,” says Brian Cole, director of hi-tech start-up Cold Studios which has developed the game. “There are three levels, and when you finish each level you get to improve your grazing with inputs from University of Waikato researchers.”


University of Waikato scientists are taking a closer look at the microbiological communities found in the rumen to find out how to produce milk, meat and wool in the most efficient way. Associate Professor Vic Arcus from the University of Waikato Protein and Microbes Laboratory has been working with AgResearch on a joint project looking at the bacteria and enzymes in the rumen of dairy cows. AgResearch identified Butyrivibrio proteoclasticus, a bacterium found in the rumen that is very efficient at breaking down organic matter like grass and silage, and University of Waikato scientists have been investigating the range of enzymes it produces. Ultimately, they’re hoping to isolate enzymes that farmers could use on animal feed to aid digestion which would lead to less methane, nitrogen and waste from their animals.


Two chemists from the University of Waikato have come up with an innovative method for treating bore water on Waikato farms. Along the way, they may have hit upon a low-cost solution for developing countries, where many people have limited access to clean and affordable water. Associate Professor Alan Langdon and post-doctoral researcher Dr Hilary Nath decided to try using electrochemistry to remove the iron and manganese prevalent in bore water from Waikato’s peaty soils. The residues give the water its typical browny-orange colour, and generally make it undrinkable without expensive treatment using aerators, filters, ion exchangers and tanks. The researchers came up with a simple system that uses electric current passing between two perforated titanium electrodes to turn naturally occurring chloride ions in the water into chlorine. The chlorine then oxidises and precipitates out the metal contaminants, and also disinfects the water passing through the system, making it safe to drink. Best of all, the whole system can be powered by a car battery. “By bringing the electrodes closer together than anyone else has been able to we can reduce electrical resistance and consume less power,” says Dr Nath. “And because the flow path through the cell is very short, we can achieve good water flow at modest pressure.”  The system is known as PEFT – perforated electric flow through – and patents are pending.


Researchers at the University of Waikato’s Te Kotahi Research Institute have been awarded a major research contract to investigate Māori views on biobanking and genomic research. Biobanking is where large amounts of human tissue and genetic material are stored for scientific research. Maui Hudson, a specialist in Māori ethics and new technologies and deputy director of Te Kotahi, will lead the $1.1 million three-year project funded by the Health Research Council. “We’re aware that genomic research can contribute to improving Māori health outcomes – that there are good reasons for doing it,” says Hudson, “but it’s also important that due regard is paid to Māori cultural practices in this high tech environment and that we develop mechanisms to address these issues and protect communal interests.” The research team comprises academics from the University of Waikato and community researchers from Te Moemoea and Otago Polytechnic who will work alongside biobanks and genomic research groups across the country. The research will identify what ethical cultural and scientific policies and practices are necessary to address Māori issues and protect Māori interests in these areas of research.


University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford will be visiting Northland the week of 18 June with a small group from the University of Waikato, including Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith. The duo will be visiting Northland high schools through the week and talking to staff and student leaders about the University of Waikato. They will also host stakeholder events.


Budding Waikato University voice students will be taking part in the annual Aria Competition run by the Music department at Waikato University, looking to claim first prize. Senior Fellow and accomplished soprano herself, Dame Malvina Major, heads the judging panel alongside New Zealand tenor Kenneth Cornish and recent recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit, pianist Sue Smith-Gaddis. The aria competition is held this Friday 15 June, starting at 7pm, in the Dr John Gallagher Concert Chamber at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased on the night.


The University of Waikato is holding its own version of a careers expo this year. Following the cancellation of the Waikato Careers Expo, the University of Waikato student recruitment team decided to open up the university on Sunday 24 June for its own Information Expo. It will take place in the S Block foyer between 11am-3pm, and is an opportunity for anyone interested in studying at the university to come and speak to staff and students about the qualifications, study options, entry requirements, scholarships and life at the University of Waikato. The expo will feature stands from all faculties, sports clubs, U Leisure and the scholarships office, and student ambassadors will be taking guided tours of the university campus.


Around 750 senior secondary school biology students are expected to attend the 14th annual Waikato Experience Biology (WEB) Days this week. The WEB Days offers students the opportunity to experience a range of biology-related events, including a seminar on human evolution, based on the biology department’s collection of hominid skulls; a lecture and lab session focusing on DNA technology, and a series of lectures on other key topics from the secondary school curriculum. The event runs over two days, 12-13 June, at the University of Waikato Hamilton campus.


Eager secondary school students from around the central North Island will visit the University of Waikato this week for the 26th annual Osborne Physics and Engineering (OsPEN) Days. Talks and practical demonstrations will give students the opportunity see how the physics they are learning at school can be used in the wider world. A highlight of the event will be the Capacitor-Car Competition. Interested students were sent component kits six weeks ago, allowing them time to build the vehicle from scratch. A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in an electric field. The cars will perform individually and will be judged on maximum forward distance achieved on a single capacitor charge. Lectures will cover physics topics such as stiffness and vibration, extracting energy from water flow without moving parts, and the concepts of gravity and satellites. Giving context to the Capacitor-Car Competition is Nihal Kalaratna’s talk on Capacitors, Supercapacitors and Energy Storage. The event runs over two days from 14-15 June at the University of Waikato Hamilton campus.

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