2018 MPI Postgraduate Science Scholarship winners

Scholarship winner case studies

Chris Nottingham

“Winning a $50,000 MPI post-graduate scholarship made a huge difference. It gave me options and meant I could do my PhD and start a family.”

The 29 year old is in his second year of his PhD at Auckland University, developing improved models to estimate surf clam populations. This will help determine if there are sufficient numbers to grow a sustainable commercial fishery.

Chris says current stock assessment methods are based on biomass surveys and there’s a lot of interest in a more robust model that would provide greater insight into stock numbers.

Found in the surf zone at sandy beaches around the country, he says surf clams have the potential to become one of New Zealand’s biggest commercial fisheries. They have good opportunities for export, particularly to China.

Being awarded an MPI post-graduate scholarship in 2018 has given Chris the financial freedom to pursue his PhD studies in a field that could generate new jobs and wealth in communities around the country, and to become a first-time dad at the same time.

Chris Nottingham, walking on Wellington's waterfront.
Chris Nottingham.

Edwardo Reynolds

“The scholarship has allowed me to spend more time on my research, providing peace of mind during my PhD. It has linked me to other passionate scientists and early career researchers throughout the primary industries.”

Getting a public sector perspective on his research and creating vital connections across industry inspired Edwardo to apply for an MPI post-graduate scholarship. His study with Massey University focuses on the identification of genetic variation between cows, a topic which has interested him since his early years.

“I grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Gisborne. I’ve always been interested in genetics and statistics, and am keen for my work to apply in the real world.” He says livestock genetics seemed like a great place to apply his interests.

Edwardo hopes his research will improve our understanding of genetic variation in cattle, leading to improvements in animal welfare and on-farm sustainability.

Edwardo Reynolds, on a hillside overlooking farmland.
Edwardo Reynolds.

Irene Middleton

“The MPI scholarship allows me to treat my PhD as a fulltime job, gain experience, and hone a new set of skills. From a personal point of view, I am a mature student going back to study – which is scary. But I had collaborated with MPI in the past and always enjoyed the work and the people.”

PhD candidate Irene Middleton returned to study as a mature student after spending 12 years as a marine scientist. The MPI scholarship helps her to focus on her study when previously it was incredibly difficult to do both.

Irene’s research involves:

  • collating historical records of exotic fishes and invertebrates found in New Zealand
  • setting up a citizen-science platform to record sightings, and
  • undertaking quantitative surveys of marine debris and habitats for dispersing fishes and invertebrates.

She hopes her research will help MPI to interact with citizen scientists and increase their approachability and visibility.

A recreational diver and award-winning nature photographer, Irene’s passion for sea life appears to know no bounds.

Irene Middleton, sitting on a wharf and wearing a wetsuit.
Irene Middleton.

Other winners

Trevor Best, PhD, University of Canterbury

The construction of stress by machine operators working in the forest and logging industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thomas Corbett, PhD, University of Waikato

Development of a nitrate/nitrite and phosphate sensor to understand nutrient levels.

Jonathan Dash, PhD, University of Canterbury

Detection and monitoring of invasive exotic conifers in New Zealand using remote sensing technology.

Jiaojiao (Yvonne) Gao, MSc, Massey University

Researching food traceability – a major obstacle when investigating food-borne illnesses.

Stacey Hendriks, PhD, Massey University

Profiling lying behaviour and activity changes in grazing dairy cows and identifying ways to detect animals at risk of developing disease.

Kimberly Maxwell, PhD, Victoria University of Wellington

An ecosystem approach to fisheries from a tangata whenua perspective.

Sam Pike, MSc, Massey University

New generation beef (Kūao beef): developing a new beef production system from bobby calves.

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