Lynley Hargreaves

Lynley Hargreaves is a freelance science communicator with a background in mathematical physics. After a stint overseas at Physics Today magazine, she spent happy years working for the Royal Society Te Apārangi, albeit with intermittent disappearances to the mountains of the West Coast of the South Island. From this now permanent West Coast base, she has been conducting IAQ interviews since the beginning of 2014, asking a wide range of researchers how their work can give us insights into the workings of the world.

Climate change, inequality, and why we need cycle lanes in South Auckland - Infrequently Asked Questions

Nov 23, 2017

Action on climate change is essential, but poorly planned action risks exacerbating inequality, says University of Auckland public health physician Dr Rhys Jones, making the health of our poorest people even worse. Instead, New Zealand needs to look for win-win policies which reduce emissions while also improving the health of vulnerable populations. That means applying an ‘equity lens’ to climate action and related policy areas. In practical terms, he adds, that could mean sending cycleway funding into poorer areas, targeting taxes to reduce consumption of animal products, and ensuring that revenue from pricing emissions is redistributed in ways that benefit poorer households. How can climate change mitigation make health worse? Dr Rhys Jones One example involves financial tools to address climate change – such as a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme. While they can potentially be very effective … Read More

Mosquito-borne diseases more likely to reach New Zealand - Infrequently Asked Questions

Nov 02, 2017

It’s a familiar New Zealand story, the havoc wrecked by all the pest species we’ve brought in. But in the case of mosquitoes, the worst might be yet to come. There were 12 mostly bird-nibbling mosquito species in pre-European times. Since our arrival, three new species have become permanently established here. We’ve stopped dozens more at our ports, and eradicated one. Climate change will make that border control more difficult, says University of Auckland Senior Research Fellow José Derraik. And if new species arrive, an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease in New Zealand becomes ever more likely. Dr José Derraik What’s a worst case scenario of mosquito-borne disease in New Zealand? If a species such as Aedes albopictus – the Asian tiger mosquito … Read More

Future Medicine: Organising Human Brain Cells on a Silicon Chip - Infrequently Asked Questions

Sep 13, 2017

Forget petri dishes: a team from the University of Auckland is using a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund grant to organise human neural cells into grids. The group then stimulate the cells with electrodes, to better understand real communication in the brain and to mimic the effects of common neurological conditions such as epilepsy and stroke. Associate Professor Charles Unsworth tells us how it is possible to accomplish such feats. It’s mind boggling that you can put human brain cells on to a silicon chip. How does this work and how do you keep them alive? Associate Professor Charles Unsworth It is just like feeding your plants at home. Cells need food and warmth. For them, their food consists of a fluid media containing nutrients which has to be maintained at an ambient temperature using an incubator. Every other … Read More

Take a walk on the polluted side: air pollutant exposure on busy roads - Infrequently Asked Questions

Sep 01, 2017

Originally posted on Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Past and Future series where, as part of 150th anniversary celebrations, early career researchers are invited to share discoveries in their fields from days gone by or give us a glimpse into where their research may take us in the future. By Dr Lena Francesca Weissert, Research Fellow in Chemical Sciences at University of Auckland The World Health Organization considers poor air quality as the greatest environmental health risk. Amongst others it can increase lung cancer, strokes or worsen asthma symptoms. Most affected are older people, children, asthmatics or people with other respiratory problems. Of particular concern are pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), which can accumulate to reach very high concentrations near busy roads or intersections. However, standard air quality measurements are often not set up to capture … Read More

Matters of coincidence or the collective digital unconscious? - Infrequently Asked Questions

Aug 18, 2017

Originally posted on Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Past and Future series where, as part of 150th anniversary celebrations, early career researchers are invited to share discoveries in their fields from days gone by or give us a glimpse into where their research may take us in the future. By Dr Markus Luczak-Roesch, senior lecturer from the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Markus Luczak-Roesch We all know situations in which we have a thought coming to our mind and later something happens that is meaningfully linked to that thought but has no causal relationship to it. Most striking examples in this regard are usually dreams that we have from which some events later actually happen in reality. But what do such events – commonly known as coincidences – have to do with filter bubbles, Wikipedia, and … Read More

Curiouser and Curiouser: The mysterious incidence of testicular cancer in Māori - Unsorted

Jun 15, 2017

Originally posted on Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Past and Future series where, as part of 150th anniversary celebrations, early career researchers are invited to share discoveries in their fields from days gone by or give us a glimpse into where their research may take us in the future. By Jason Gurney, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington I was a complete novice when I started work as a public health researcher. I’d spent my prior (academic) life in a multi-million dollar biomechanics laboratory: my doctoral studies had involved years of painstaking data collection with a tiny sample of patients, with the grand result that the intervention-thingy I was testing didn’t actually work.  In an effort to hide this fact, I filled my thesis with technical jargon and more formulae than I care to remember; as a … Read More

The lost map of South Westland - Infrequently Asked Questions

Apr 27, 2017

Fascinating science stories await those willing to delve into New Zealand’s archives. But few do, because of the vast amount of information to sift through, says Dr Simon Nathan, geologist and guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The first of two issues focused on science history, this issue is freely available to the public between April and October 2017. Dr Nathan tells us about his contribution to the issue, and the New Zealand science history scene. Who are the science historians of New Zealand? Dr Simon Nathan There really isn’t a terribly strong science history movement in New Zealand. The papers have mostly come out of a conference we held at the end of 2015 on New Zealand science history. The previous … Read More

The Royal Society, 150 years on - Infrequently Asked Questions

Apr 06, 2017

There’s a common thread running through the 150 year history of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. That is the Society’s ability to reinvent itself, says historian John Martin, who wrote the book Illuminating our World: 150 Years of the Royal Society Te Apārangi launched in Wellington last night. The Society’s latest reconception, in some ways, takes the organisation back to its roots – of encompassing not just science, but all forms of knowledge. John Martin tells us more. Is there a common theme running through Illuminating Our World? What I’m hoping comes through in the book is the very interesting evolution of an organisation that, in order to survive and prosper, has had to reinvent itself multiple times. When it began as the New Zealand Institute the government was a very different beast from in the 20th century. The government didn’t have sets … Read More

Kaka, cognition and how bird brains help us understand intelligence - Infrequently Asked Questions

Mar 23, 2017

Dr Rachael Shaw Bird brain shouldn’t be an insult anymore, says Victoria University Research Fellow Dr Rachael Shaw, because birds can do amazing things. Dr Shaw studied the cognition of a population of curious robins in Wellington’s Zealandia ecosanctuary with a Fast-Start Marsden Fund grant. Together with students, she has since found these birds may be able to pass on behaviours taught to them by humans to their offspring. Dr Shaw tells us how her results can help us understand the evolution of intelligence, and might even offer insights into ways to teach Wellington’s burgeoning kaka population to avoid the pitfalls of living in a human-centric environment. How can bird brains tell us about the way intelligence works? There are two main theories of intelligence that researchers typically focus on, … Read More

Deciphering scientific history (and handwriting) - Infrequently Asked Questions

Mar 08, 2017

Dr Simon Nathan The human side of James Hector, the dominant scientist of nineteenth century New Zealand, long lay hidden in the illegible scrawl of Hector’s handwriting. Then Dr Simon Nathan began writing a biography of the man who established the museum that became Te Papa and the institute that became the Royal Society of New Zealand. In making sense of Hector, Simon has also illuminated New Zealand’s history. He will give a talk in Wellington on the day that would be Hector’s 183rd birthday. Here, he muses on perception, politics and science. You’ve now published transcriptions of many of the letters between Hector and his contemporaries. How did that come about? When I started writing the book about Hector I had worked out a plan and I’d written a couple of chapters. But I … Read More