Assessment panel biographies
Ken has broad research interests in freshwater, tourism and climate change, tourism and disaster management, environmental perceptions monitoring, and introduced animal management. Ken has acted as Chair for the Unlocking Curious Minds panel for five years. He is seconded for 3 days per week to the Department of Conservation, normally working these in Wellington but sometimes for a day per week at a shared desk in the Christchurch office. He is on the Senior Leadership Team at DOC and his work covers a wide variety of activities.
Dr Ofa Dewes is an Associate Investigator with the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, a national Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland. She is interested in ethnic-specific research and evaluation studies among Pacific population groups across the life-span especially in the areas of people development, metabolic diseases, ageing well, and activating communities for better health and education outcomes. Ofa was born in Suva, Fiji, and is part-Rotuman, Tongan and Tuvaluan, with affiliation to Ngāti Porou.
(Waikato-Maniapoto; Ngāti Porou; Ngāti Whakaaue)
Te Taka completed a PhD in 2007, titled Indigenous Language Usage in a Digital Library: He Hautoa Kia Ora Tonu Ai. He has worked on a number of projects involving the Māori language and technology. These include the Māori Niupepa Collection, Te Kete Ipurangi, the Microsoft keyboard, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office in Māori, Moodle in Māori, Google Web Search in Māori, and the Māori macroniser. In 2009 Te Taka spent 6 months with Google in Mountain View as a visiting scientist assisting with the Google Translator Toolkit for Māori. Further work with Google led to Translate in Māori. In 2013 Te Taka was awarded the University of Waikato's Māori/Indigenous Excellence Award for Research. In 2017, Te Taka was awarded the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. In 2019 Te Taka was awarded the University of Waikato's Excellence in Research Award.
Professor Nancy Longnecker has experience as an agricultural research scientist, professional science communicator and science communication academic. Prof Longnecker and her science communication students have created exhibitions and displays that have been seen by well over fifty thousand visitors in New Zealand and Australia. Prof Longnecker has experience working with a broad range of people, including those within primary industries, indigenous peoples, museum visitors and school students.
Dr Angela Sharples is an educational leader with experience working across the education sector from primary to tertiary levels. The Principal of Murupara Area School, she is also the winner of the 2011 Prime Minister's Science Teachers Prize. Dr Sharples is the Chairperson of New Zealand International Biology Olympiad (NZIBO), focused on developing excellence in Biology and promotion of STEM in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Dr Sharples holds a BSc, MSc (first class hons) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Science from University of Auckland.
John is a lecturer with 20 years of experience in ecology and conservation biology. He has research and publication experience in birds, mammals, plants, invertebrates, reptiles, and wildlife disease. He undertook his studies in ecology at Massey University, Palmerston North. John’s PhD was titled ‘The ecology of Aspergillus fumigates: wildlife health in modified environments’. John has interests in the use of educational technology systems for achieving greater Māori representation in the biological sciences. His current research interest is in Kākāpō aspergillosis, a fungal infection threatening New Zealand native birds.
Dr Peterson brings a strong background in science communication, with experience in the New Zealand’s science system and solid connections with technology businesses in New Zealand. Since receiving his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Bradley University and Ph.D from Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, Dean has had an impressive career spanning physical sciences, policy and science funding.
Ruth is a qualified secondary teacher and has been teaching for 25 years in various sectors of Science education with a strong connection with LEOTC (learning experiences outside of the classroom). She has developed science outreach programs, and on-line courses for various institutions. She has completed post graduate qualifications in Antarctic Studies and was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks on the white continent.
Hamish Spencer is a Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, where he has been since 1992. After completing his PhD at Harvard University, he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of Waikato. At Otago he teaches in the Genetics Programme. In 2009 Prof Spencer was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. Prof Spencer is an evolutionary geneticist, whose research ranges from mathematical population genetics to the use of evolutionary trees. In 2016 Prof Spencer was awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi Callaghan Medal for an outstanding contribution to science communication and raising public awareness of the value of science to human progress.
Laura is the Director of Methodist Mission Southern and also the Otago Participatory Science Platform Chair. Methodist Mission Southern run a broad range of skill development and social justice programmes, notably the UCM funded ‘Science Works’ to increase students’ engagement with STEM careers in computing, manufacturing, agriculture, conservation, aviation, electronics, tourism and many more skilled career pathways. Laura has 25 years' management level experience in the NGO and private sectors and is a specialist in the use of outcomes data in social services.
Jackie is a Senior Adviser in the Early Learning & Student Achievement group at the Ministry of Education. Her team is responsible for supporting all learners to grow their knowledge, skills, and competencies in the learning that is most critical to them along their learning pathways. Jackie has been with the Ministry of Education since January and is a trained primary school teacher. Previously, she worked in Environmental Reporting for the Ministry for the Environment. She holds a MSc in Conservation Biology and a BSc in Ecology, Biodiversity and Marine Biology.