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BIOLOGICAL HERITAGE UPDATE Issue 14
20 December 2016
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Biological Heritage Update

BIOLOGICAL HERITAGE UPDATE

Issue 14
20 December 2016


Update from Andrea Byrom, Challenge Director

 

Merry Christmas from the New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge!


On reflection

When I took on my role as Challenge Director in July 2015 I was hugely excited at the opportunity to build a consortium of scientists (including Māori researchers), policy makers, end users, communities, young people, retired people, and many others committed to the kaupapa of the Biological Heritage Science Challenge. But I don’t think I realised just how big a job it would be – several colleagues have commented that it’s like building the plane as you’re trying to fly it, putting down the tracks in front of the train… etc. It certainly has been a long but rewarding journey in 2016 and I’d like to thank you all for your commitment and enthusiasm. I’d especially like to thank our Challenge Parties (as a reminder, there are 17 Parties in our Challenge including all 8 universities, 7 Crown Research Institutes, the Department of Conservation, and the Ministry for Primary Industries). They are the ones who house the capability needed to deliver the science for the benefit of New Zealand. Thank you.


Contestable funding round

I’m excited to announce the results of our contestable funding round. We have funded six projects worth more than $3Million across our three Challenge programmes. These six projects represent research areas of critical need for New Zealand: there are two related to kauri dieback disease, two concerned with restoration of freshwater ecosystems, and two focused on the public: research and development of a customised mobile app to enlist public help in reporting biosecurity threats, and research into public attitudes towards novel ways of getting rid of wasps and rats.
 

Combating Kauri dieback

Two of our new projects tackle kauri dieback, a plant pathogen that has huge impacts on one of New Zealand’s most-loved taonga species. These projects bring together citizen science (led by Māori communities across the Coromandel, Northland and Auckland and contracted by Plant & Food Research) and biophysical science (led by the University of Otago).  

Restoration of freshwater ecosystems

We’re also funding two new projects aimed at restoring New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems. The first (led by NIWA) focuses on subterranean systems – vital filtration systems housing cryptic aquatic fauna that keep our aquifers clean. The second (led by the University of Canterbury) focuses on strengthening and restoring the interconnected network of organisms in New Zealand’s degraded streams and waterways, in partnership with primary industry and communities.  

Involving the public in science

And two projects aim to involve citizens and the public in science. The first (led by Scion Research) aims to equip 4.7 million citizens with the technology to work alongside primary industries to identify biosecurity threats, and make use of citizen and agency information to strengthen NZ’s biosecurity system and support the Biosecurity 2025 initiative. A second project (led by the Department of Conservation and Landcare Research) builds on existing Challenge funding for novel technologies to eliminate wasps and small mammal pests, and explores the public’s understanding of these technologies. It is ground-breaking social research that will support the Predator-Free NZ 2050 initiative.  

Predator-Free New Zealand 2050

We are excited that in 2017 we will be working closely with the recently-announced Predator-Free NZ 2050 Limited Board to provide the coordinated research strategy required for this ambitious vision. Check out the DOC website for a summary of the 2025 goals. Through our assessment of aligned research funding from all our Challenge Parties, we now have a great overview of relevant research that is already being done across NZ, but the trick now will be to better coordinate that work, incentivise new investment, and develop a coordinated plan to tackle the 2025 goal “Achieve a breakthrough science solution capable of eradicating at least one small mammal predator from the New Zealand mainland”. This is not as simple as it first seems: everyone assumes that it will be a simple matter of developing a magic new tool to kill invasive predators. But those of us who have worked in pest management know that it will require a multidisciplinary approach, involving development of novel tools and technologies, a solid understanding of animal behaviour and ecology, social and economic research, research in the policy and regulatory sphere, and inter-generational thinking (which many of our Māori colleagues do best). Some of our newly-announced contestable funding – especially the work on public perceptions of novel control tools – is aimed specifically at kick-starting areas of critical research to tackle this 2025 interim goal. And on the international front, did you know that the Honolulu Challenge on Invasive Alien Species was partly inspired by New Zealand’s Predator-Free announcement?
 

Biosecurity 2025, and the Māori Biosecurity Network

It’s also worth checking out the Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement on the MPI website, and having a read of their 5 strategic goals, if you haven’t already. And just like the PFNZ2050 aspiration, everyone assumes that scientists will want to focus on goal 2 (a ‘toolbox for tomorrow’), whereas in fact science and research have a role to play across all five strategic goals, including for example enlisting a ‘biosecurity team of 4.7 million’, building a ‘smart, free-flowing information superhighway’, and taking ‘effective leadership’ across biosecurity research. Again, some of our newly-announced contestable funding – especially the work on kauri dieback as a major biosecurity threat, and the use of mobile technology to protect NZ from biosecurity threats – is aimed specifically at kick-starting areas of critical research to help MPI with Biosecurity 2025.

And a big shout out to Te Turi Whakamātaki (the Māori Biosecurity Network), which amongst other goals has the potential to harness Māori expertise to help MPI deliver Biosecurity 2025. The Māori Biosecurity Network recently received funding from the Nga Pae o te Māramatanga CoRE, and project leader Dr Amanda Black (also a Kaihautū for Programmes 1 and 2 in this Challenge) was recently awarded Marsden funding for a project entitled ‘Re-Indigenising the Biosecurity System’. These recent successes all point to the critical role that Māori have to play in New Zealand’s biosecurity system, whether in citizen surveillance for unwanted organisms, for growing the Māori economy, or in building and retaining research capability, including Mātauranga knowledge.
 

What does 2017 hold for the Biological Heritage Challenge?

We have allocated most of our science funding to 2019, which means we can look ahead to 2017 from a different perspective. Our Science Leadership Group are keen to focus on strengthening cross-project and cross-programme linkages, because like many of the Challenges, we’ve been so focussed on funding individual projects when the real opportunity lies in forging new collaborations across the science system. This includes embedding Mātauranga Māori throughout the Challenge, with Māori take a leading role in priority areas. We’ll also be working more closely with our Challenge Parties to help clarify research priorities and gaps that our Challenge funding could not stretch to, in the hope that we can work with them to shape the direction of aligned research towards the Challenge Mission. And as I mentioned above, a big focus for us will shift towards activity directed towards big national goals such as Biosecurity 2025, Predator-Free NZ 2050, and the priorities for freshwater restoration. And see below for more information on our Challenge conference.
 

How can I get involved in the Challenge?

Allocating our ‘envelope’ funding was only ever the tip of the iceberg in terms of involvement in a science Challenge. Many people have asked me: “how can I help the Challenge?” Here are some ideas for how you can get involved. 

As an individual scientist, you can:
  • Increase your science impact by being a part of a bigger collaboration – through high-impact publications, workshops, and so on.
  • Increase impact for NZ – by working on mission-led research.
  • Be part of a collaboration – with cross-institutional teams of scientists and stakeholders working together to achieve outcomes.
  • Work with people from other disciplinary areas to increase integration of different research approaches.
  • Use the Challenge to help you resolve tricky issues that individual researchers may not be able to deal with – such as data stewardship, IP issues, or appropriate avenues to work with Māori researchers and communities.
  • Access databases and infrastructure in other organisations – providing you with an ability to conduct fundamental research in addition to mission-led science.
  • Help us incentivise investment in science – supporting Challenge efforts to influence extra investment in science whether from government or private sectors.
  • Make use of Challenge Intermediate Outcomes and research priorities – when bidding into funding rounds, or access seed funding to boost other funding applications, such as the recent Nation of Curious Minds round.

Research institutions can:
  • Increase their profile through working on Mission-led research – your organisation can be seen as a research leader in areas of national importance.
  • Access information on research gaps and priorities provided by a wide set of Challenge stakeholders.
  • Receive media exposure – your organisation can be included in media releases for relevant projects through the Challenge (and vice-versa); if leading Challenge Projects, possibility for project to be ‘pin-up project’ is an exciting prospect.
  • Foster awareness of, and ability to deliver, MBIE’s Vision Mātauranga policy.
  • Make use of the Challenge support team for helping organise Challenge workshops or events.
  • Acess funding opportunities (directly via the Challenge envelope, or indirectly), high-impact publications, with student (and sometimes postdoc) projects funded.
  • Strengthen relationships across multiple organisations working together to deliver outcomes, with an improved opportunity to engage with end-users.
  • Conduct multidisciplinary research – encouraging researchers to collaborate in new areas.
  • Facilitate public engagement – the NZ public is included in science, with outcomes delivered in a manner understandable to all; this encourages and creates opportunities for citizen scientists and ultimately increases public interest in scientific research.
  • Access a stable science plan – involvement in a medium-term stable science plan with opportunities for strategic positioning for longer-term funding aligned with the Challenge.
  • Access knowledge exchange and support capacity and capability building (i.e. sharing ideas, but perhaps also accessing infrastructure, datasets, expertise).
  • Help incentivise investment in science – supporting Challenge efforts to influence extra investment in science whether from government or private sectors.
Crazy & Ambitious

‘Crazy and Ambitious’ Challenge Conference

The website for our conference is now live: www.confer.co.nz/crazyandambitious

The theme ‘Crazy and Ambitious’ is in recognition of a turning point in New Zealand conservation, when Sir Paul Callaghan – one of New Zealand’s most eminent physicists – spoke of his vision for a ‘Predator-Free New Zealand’ shortly before his death in 2014. The conference will not be a typical science conference, although there will be plenty of opportunity to showcase great science associated with the Biological Heritage Challenge. We have a great lineup of speakers, and more to come, so keep an eye out for more information in the new year.

The last word

Finally, I’d just like to give a huge THANK YOU to the Challenge Support Team and Science Leadership Group for their unwavering support and huge amount of hard work this year, and also to our host Landcare Research, our End-User Advisory Panel and Kāhui Māori, and our Governance Group. We are a committed and growing whānau and we look forward to working with all of you in 2017!

Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou.
Andrea
Meri Kirihimete

For more information


Visit our website: www.biologicalheritage.nz
Or email Challenge support staff: support@biologicalheritage.nz
Biological Heritage Updates come out intermittently, and a full list of back issues is available.
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Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua
New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge is hosted by Landcare Research and supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The Challenge partners are AgResearch, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Conservation, ESR, GNS Science, Lincoln University, Massey University, Ministry of Primary Industries, NIWA, Plant & Food Research, Scion, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, and University of Waikato.

Copyright © 2016 New Zealand's Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, All rights reserved.


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