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University of Waikato researchers awarded $5.6m from Marsden Fund

5 November 2019

Four University of Waikato researchers were today awarded Marsden Fund grants for 2019, including one project alone receiving $3 million.

The highly competitive Marsden Fund grants are regarded as a hallmark of excellence for researchers working in New Zealand. The grants fund research that benefits society as a whole.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says receiving these grants reflects the quality and diversity of the University’s research programmes, as well as the impact that Waikato researchers are having across biological science, Māori language and culture in education, economics, and seismic geo-technology.

“It is particularly exciting for the University that Professor Vic Arcus has received one of the first-ever Marsden Fund Council Awards, for his large interdisciplinary project on enzymes as catalysts for life on our planet.”

Professor Vic Arcus and Professor Louis Schipper from the University of Waikato, along with Dr Liyin Liang of Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, and Dr Bella Duncan from Victoria University of Wellington, have been awarded $3 million to determine whether there is a single theory of temperature dependence that applies to life in a range of scales in time and space.

The project will tackle one of the biggest challenges in interdisciplinary science; how to predict the behaviour of biological systems and their responses to increasing greenhouse gases and climate warming.

They will draw on the team's diverse range of disciplines, including chemical physics, molecular biology, plant physiology, soil science, climate models and palaeoclimate expertise.

Professor Mere Berryman, Professor David Lowe and Professor John Gibson were the other three Marsden Fund recipients from the University of Waikato.

Professor Mere Berryman has been awarded $841,000 for her proposed research on how the education system in New Zealand and in other colonised countries has overlooked Māori and Indigenous language and culture, by favouring Eurocentric education models and policies.

This detrimentally influenced how those people view their own language, culture and identity across successive generations. Professor Berryman and her team seek to understand the implications of this intergenerational loss, and the interrelationships between language and culture. Specifically, the research intends to better understand the socialisation of babies within families and their sense of belonging, emerging identities and language acquisition.

Professor David Lowe has been awarded $960,000 to look into hidden faults that pose a potential seismic risk beneath Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

This project will analyse volcanic-ash layers (some of which have been liquefied) preserved in lake sediments, using state-of-the-art techniques to measure the extent of ground shaking from large earthquakes over the last 20,000 years.

Knowing where people live and work within a country is critical to public policy and economic research, and Professor John Gibson’s research titled ‘Mis-counting China’ has been awarded $858,000 to work towards correcting the current data gap in China.

This gap has been created through systematic and time-varying errors in local population data, and the team’s revised estimate of resident populations in China will be important in answering key questions on inequality, regional development policy and quality of life. Professor Gibson’s co-principal investigator, Professor Xin Deng, is from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Work on these projects will commence on 1 March 2020 unless otherwise stated.

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