Roland Harrison: Research
One man working hard on bettering New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry is not a winemaker nor a viticulturist. In fact, he’s rarely even near a vineyard – unless you count his own 100-vine planting.
Roland Harrison, director of the Centre of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University, plays a big role in developing new research into all things wine. His career didn’t start out that way – he studied chemistry and completed a PhD at the University of Birmingham before moving into soil science.
His introduction to New Zealand was via a postdoctoral posting at Lincoln where he got the “fantastic opportunity” to wander around the South Island high country looking at different soils. He admits it was hardly a chore.
“It was a really wonderful experience and a great introduction to New Zealand.”
After a stint at Massey University in Palmerston North he headed back to the UK before returning to the New Zealand once more, again to Lincoln – this time for wine.
Since then he has been teaching wine chemistry and doing some interesting research into wine – most importantly the relationship between wine chemistry and the sensory attributes of pinot noir.
We might just drink it, but Harrison thinks it. He says pinot noir is interesting in that it has an ability to reflect its growing environment.
New Zealand, too, is special in that pinot noir is grown in a number of different areas including Central Otago, Waipara, Marlborough and Martinborough.
His students have done work on trying to capture the aroma profile of the different New Zealand pinot regions.
“It was a really interesting study because we did some nice sensory work and we
did some nice chemistry work to see what it was we could find out about the different regions that were expressed
in the wine.”
They are also interested to find out what makes one wine “better” than another and what compounds affect how a wine looks, tastes and feels.
Harrison says he has always been interested in working at the “pointy end” of the industry – that is, he says, working with the people who are actually making the wine and helping them to make better decisions to create more interesting wines.
And what better way to round that off than at his own “nano vineyard” on the outskirts of Christchurch? His 100 vines produce about 80 to 100 bottles a year. Or as he puts it, “Enough to keep me going.”
Charlotte Severne: Educational equality
Charlotte Severne is on a mission to bring more young Māori into the science field.
“We are at a critical time for growing Māori capability within tertiary and graduate programmes,” she says. “Māori strength is in the number of youth we have as a percentage of our population – 33.8 per cent under 15 years old.
“Currently this group is not performing well in the mainstream and very few are filling roles on Māori-owned farms or forestry companies,” Severne says.
“I am unashamedly focused on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics area because I can see the value of it for Māori.”
Severne, the deputy vice-chancellor, Māori and Communities at Lincoln University, says she “had an easy path because I was lifted up out of school into engineering and then I decided for myself that I wanted to be the best at what I do. I knew the power of science.”
Severne, of Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāi Tūhoe descent, completed a civil engineering degree at the University of Auckland, then a PhD in geology. She went on to become a chief scientist of ocean research and Māori development at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), working there for 11 years. Severne has also been a senior analyst for the Ministry for the Environment as a Māori treaty advisor, and is a member of the MBIE Science Board. The experience has served her well and she now wants to put her efforts into helping other Māori reach their goals, and that often means changing the way we think about tertiary education.
Much of her work has been applied working with Māori in the agriculture sector and the forestry sector and working to find reasons why they might not be as productive as they might be in their businesses.
Severne says Māori have some “significant needs in our farms and forests that require a large number of undergraduates entering into the system”.
“Its been really exciting for me being at Lincoln University because you get to have conversations about blended and distance learning arrangements that would really suit Māori and our economy. The tertiary sector is deeply satisfying for me.”
Keith Cameron: Agriculture
If New Zealand’s economy relies on not only agriculture but also our clean, green image then Professor Keith Cameron is a very important man.
Cameron, the director of the Centre for Soil and Environmental Research at Lincoln University, has been at the forefront of trying to find ways to lessen the environmental impact of agricultural production in New Zealand. He is recognised internationally for his research.
Specifically, his research has seen him and his colleagues work to stop nitrogen leaching into waterways or into the air.
Born in Scotland and with degrees from Aberdeen and Reading universities, Cameron has been a staff member at Lincoln University since 1981.
In 2008, he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work, including research with collaborator Professor Hong Di to develop nitrification inhibitor technology to help to reduce the nitrate leaching from cows grazing.
For Cameron, though, one of the highlights of his job is training the next cohort of scientists.
“I am very proud of the students that have gone on to make major contributions to the sustainability of New Zealand agriculture.”
His role at Lincoln is dual-focused – one part is advanced research and the other is lecturing and teaching students.
“I have always seen capability building as an important responsibility.”
He says it is a “very positive signal” that the number of people interested in the environmental impact of agriculture continues to grow.
“Those students are highly motivated and they are not only environmentally aware but they are production focused.
“They really have a hunger for knowledge on how to manage the food production system in a way that reduces the environmental footprint.”
He says an environmental awareness is crucial for New Zealand to “continue to secure the benefit from agricultural exports at the same time as maintaining our clean and green image”.
He continues, “I’m very proud to work for Lincoln University because of that contribution it makes to New Zealand’s future through the training of those students who then move into the industry.”
The focus of his research and his collaboration with multidisciplinary teams has been trying to find solutions to pressing environmental problems.
“It is the way of the future to have these multidisciplinary teams. There is a lot of ground to be made when we work together, because we all bring a different expertise and perspective to the table.”
Lincoln University is also developing a new, multi-million dollar research and development station at a property just outside of Lincoln to specifically address and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture.
Jacky Bowring: Landscape
We are all so busy trying to be happy that we don’t allow ourselves to be sad.
So says Professor of Landscape Architecture Jacky Bowring, who specialises in emotions and landscapes.
It might seem a strange connection but Bowring, who has worked at Lincoln University for a number of years, says landscapes often have emotional connections. Think of a memorial or a cemetery, or even a sacred garden.
Bowring grew up in Kaikoura and studied geography at the University of Canterbury. “The truth of it is that I didn’t get into art school,” she says. “So I thought: ‘Bugger that, I am going to be a scientist.’ I actually ended up getting a first-class honours degree in geography.
“A couple of years later I saw a television programme about [British landscape architect] Capability Brown. I had a eureka moment that it was actually about geography and design.”
She studied landscape architecture and went to London to work in the field before returning to teach at Lincoln.
Much of her work was theoretical until the Christchurch earthquake. “When the earthquake happened I realised that it was right on my doorstep and all that academic and, largely, hypothetical work thinking about what it is to create a memorial, was right here.”
She got involved in planning for the city rebuild and worked with Christchurch City Council on a plan for the earthquake memorial, specifically the international competition, which she helped judge.
Bowring also has written two books, A Field Guide to Melancholy and Melancholy and the Landscape.