Sustainability Network announces research award recipients for round one 2018

15 June 2018

The Sustainability Network is pleased to announce the four successful student projects for the May 2018 round of the Faculty of Science Sustainability Research Awards.

These awards were established in December 2016 to encourage and support student projects involving a specific area of research related to either sustainability within the University or at a wider level.

Nine applications were received in this round. They were assessed by Dr Anna Santure and Associate Professor Bruce Burns, who selected the final four projects based on quality of the proposal and how likely it is to inform sustainability initiatives; the project’s relevance to the practise of sustainability at the University of Auckland; and the capacity of the student+supervisor team to conduct the research.

Dr Santure and Associate Professor Burns were delighted with the quality and the breadth of the applications this round, with the successful applicants submitting strong applications with clear research links to sustainability.

The students – Mallory Sea (Marine Science), Polly Holland (Environmental Science), Eleanor Kearns (Chemical Sciences) and India Merrick (Marine Science) - will each receive $2000 award to support their living costs.

Round two of the Sustainability Network Research Awards will open for applications in September 2018. Read more


Mallory Sea | Shellfish Restoration in the Hauraki Gulf
: Professor Simon Thrush
Master of Science degree: Marine Science

Mallory is at the University of Auckland on a one-year Fulbright Scholarship from the United States. Sustainability (broadly defined as promoting ecological flourishing) is the major goal of her research project, which examines the spatial arrangement of mussels to determine what patterns minimize predation rates.

Determining sustainable spatial arrangements will promote ecological flourishing and will aid in future restoration work for soft-sediment marine bivalves, such as projects to revive the depleted the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) beds in the Hauraki Gulf. The persistence of these restored mussel beds will promote shellfish sustainability in years to come.


Polly Holland | Pipe dreams and dirty streams
: Dr Sam Trowsdale
Master of Science degree: Environmental Science

Polly’s research addresses the question – ‘How do industrialist and sustainability discourses compete in contemporary urban water management?’. She will explore the case study of declining water quality in Auckland’s harbours due to wastewater overflows and Watercare’s solution, the Central Interceptor. The Auckland Unitary Plan encourages sustainable urban water management and green growth. At the same time, the proposed Central Interceptor is a wastewater tunnel that will run 13km underground, diverting wastewater away from the Waitemata and Manukau harbours to the treatment plant in Mangere (Watercare, 2018). This is a classic, industrialist approach to treating urban water problems.

Polly will explore sustainability in urban water management and urban planning and seek to understand the ways in which that can co-exist with the competing ideology of industrialism in the pursuit of improved water quality in Auckland city. 

Eleanor Kearns | Design and Synthesis of Novel Donor Materials for Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) Devices
Supervisors:  Dr Paul Hume and Dr Geoff Waterhouse
Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree: Chemical Sciences

Fossil fuels currently account for 80% of the world’s energy usage, however, the demand for clean, renewable energy is growing. OPV devices have the potential to supply the world’s energy needs while remaining environmentally friendly. Progress in the field of OPV devices is driven by the development of novel OPV materials.

In this project Eleanor aims to use recent research carried out by Brovelli to design and prepare a new class of small-molecule OPV (SM-OPV) material that she’s called “pseudo-polymers”.  The development of new materials is not complete without thorough characterisation and device testing. The second half of Eleanor’s Honours project will consist of employing solid state techniques to fully characterise her materials and optimising solar cell fabrication to maximise efficiency.

India Merrick | Establishing new marine reserves: Using species presence data to aid in increasing conservation of biodiversity
Supervisor: Dr Mark Costello
Master of Science degree, Marine Science

The importance of ecosystem services provided by marine biodiversity have been clearly demonstrated in the past. Despite this, degradation of marine biodiversity continues, in large part due to anthropogenic impacts such as overfishing, destructive land use and the effects of climate change. Using protected areas as a way of conserving biodiversity has been recognised as both effective and essential so India’s project has three main goals:

  • to provide a database of currently protected species within marine reserve borders and to investigate trends within this data
  • to use the database as a way of analysing candidate marine sites in comparison to current reserves, and
  •  to investigate bias within the database and provide recommendations on how it can be improved to give a more comprehensive picture of gaps in current protected biodiversity within marine reserves.

India hopes that providing this information to the public will aid in stakeholders and community groups decisions when proposing a marine reserve site.