Marsden funding for toxins, video games, business and bacteria

24 September 2010

Waikato University has secured nearly $5.5 million in Marsden research funding for nine different projects. Marsden grants are given annually and 2010 is the most successful to date for Waikato academics.

Four of the nine projects are in science. Professor Craig Cary will lead a team investigating the phantom marine toxin TTX found to be responsible for a number of dogs dying on Auckland beaches last summer. Professor Cary has been awarded $750,000 over three years to discover the exact origin of TTX and its life-cycle.

Biological scientist, Associate Professor Vic Arcus receives almost $900,000 over three years to research the adaptation of bacteria to survive in different and hostile environments. It’s research that could have important implications in the development of new antibiotics. Dr Charlie Lee has been awarded $300,000 to study micro-organisms in Antarctica’s Dry Valleys while earth and ocean scientist Professor David Lowe receives $825,000 to study volcanic ash layers which will allow ancient DNA analysis and help provide reconstructions of environmental and climatic change over the past 25,000 years.

Marketing professor Harald Van Heerde from Waikato Management School receives $740,000 over three years to investigate whether firms can spend their way out of a recession. The typical reaction of businesses in hard times is to slash investments in innovation, advertising and marketing, because they are often easiest to cut. Van Heerde says it could be the opposite; that marketing investments are more effective during recessions than booms. The research will provide insights into how New Zealand firms can better navigate economic turbulence using marketing investments.

Two academics from the University’s Department of Screen and Media have each received more than $400,000. Dr Gareth Schott will study the impact of video games on players, which could in turn influence censorship classification, and Dr Craig Hight will study online documentary.

Associate Professor John Perrone from the School of Psychology has been awarded almost $750,000 to develop his research into visual motion and human depth perception. His work in understanding how the brain extracts information about obstacles in front of us will help engineers to recreate human depth perception in single camera robot vision systems, and provide insights into the visual information used for activities such as walking and driving.

Dr Tahu Kukutai from Waikato’s Population Studies Centre will study ethnicity and census, work that could add to understandings about contemporary national-building, national identity and the role of ethnicity.  

The Marsden Fund is regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas. It supports projects in the sciences, technology, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities. The fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the government.

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