University of Waikato scoops five science awards

12 October 2007
A champion for the conservation of New Zealand native forest, Professor Warwick Silvester, has received an inaugural Kudos Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to science.

Professor Silvester, a plant physiologist, was one of four individual Kudos awards and one team award to University of Waikato scientists. The Kudos Hamilton Science Excellence Awards have been established this year to recognise scientific excellence in the Waikato region.

The Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges a scientist whose research has made a major contribution to science of relevance to the Waikato region and to the international profile of New Zealand science.

The University's Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Doug Sutton congratulated Professor Silvester on receiving the Kudos Lifetime Achievement Award, and each of the other recipients on their success.

"The Kudos awards are a great way to acknowledge the calibre of our local scientists, and their contribution both to the Waikato region and to the broader international scientific community. I am delighted that the University has won in five categories. This is testimony to the excellence of our research."

Professor Sutton said Professor Silvester had successfully promoted the wonders of New Zealand's native forest and provided leadership to local, professional and community groups to help them to preserve and manage it, contributing significantly to the Waikato environment.

"Internationally, he has pursued scientific excellence to promote New Zealand's biodiversity. His work is also contributing to attempts to address a critical regional environmental issue, the leaching of nitrogen from pastoral systems into waterways."

Professor Silvester pioneered the use of stable isotopes to examine the way in which the interactions of soil properties, microbes and plant roots influence the availability of nutrients for plant uptake. The Waikato Stable Isotope Laboratory at the University of Waikato, which he established and is now director of, is internationally renowned for the quality of its carbon and nitrogen isotope tracking.

He is Chair of the David Johnstone Pukemokemoke Trust, which is setting up a key ecological site in the Waikato and, as a member of the Tongariro/Taupo Conservation Board, chaired the development of the Tongariro National Park Management Plan.

Also receiving awards at tonight's (Friday, 12 October) event were:

* Dr Alison Campbell, Department of Biological Sciences, School of Science and Engineering, who received the Science Educator Award for her outstanding leadership in a wide range of science education areas and for her advocacy for science in the public arena.

* Professor Peter Molan, Department of Biological Sciences, School of Science and Engineering, who was awarded the Science Entrepreneur Award for his work on the anti-bacterial activity of Manuka honey, which has led to its commercial use in wound dressings and approval by regulatory authorities in many countries;

* Associate Professor Louis Schipper, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, School of Science and Engineering, who received the Environmental Science Award for his work in developing de-nitrification walls and beds for treating a range of effluent streams by removing nitrate. These low-cost technologies use inexpensive, readily available materials and can be used in a wide variety of situations for pollution control.

The Information and Computer Science Technology (ICT) Science Award went to the University's CRCnet Project, which is providing broadband solutions to remote and under-served rural communities, utilising low cost, high speed wireless equipment. Project team members are:

Dr Murray Pearson and Mr Jamie Curtis, Department of Computer Science, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Mr Mathew Brown, Linux Systems Administrator, Google Ireland.

The team has developed a platform comprising three components, the hardware and software systems, and the operational models, which has been used to construct five networks. The first of these, called CRCnet ( has been used as a test bed for refining and developing the platform, and testing a wide variety of applications. It connects eight rural Waikato schools and about 50 homes in a wireless network.

Another network connects four of the most remote schools in the Te Urewera National Park area. Networks based on the platform have been built in Rotorua, the rural Transkei in South Africa and in Samoa. CRCnet technologies are being used also to connect a number of outlying schools to the Nelson loop.

Media Contact:
Liz Glasgow
University of Waikato Communications
Ph 027 6780743