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.

Sediment success – our expanding mangrove forests - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jan 28, 2015

With World Wetland Day next Monday, celebrate the most successful of New Zealand wetland types – the mangrove. While we’ve lost 90 percent of our swamps and bogs, the area covered by our only salt water tree has been expanding, driving many bach owners and other recreational beach users crazy. The University of Waikato’s Associate Professor Karin Bryan and co-principal investigator Dr Julia Mullarney have a new Marsden grant investigating how the trees’ unique peg roots help sediment settle in. She reports from the waist-deep mud of the Firth of Thames. How long have mangroves been in in the Firth of Thames? Associate Professor Karin Bryan, (left) and Dr Julia Mullarney. Mangroves weren’t in the Firth of Thames much at all in the 1950s. There is now a forest about a 1km wide that makes one of New Zealand’s … Read More

At the beach? Meet global warming’s evil twin - Infrequently Asked Questions

Jan 15, 2015

Kina, or New Zealand sea urchin One third of our carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the world’s oceans, which increases the acidity of the water and affects marine life. The University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Mary Sewell looks into the impacts on kina, or the New Zealand sea urchin, and how their fertilisation, early development and metabolism change. She tells us what ocean acidification will mean for your local beach. Why did you chose to work on kina? Marine organisms that have a calcium carbonate skeleton, such as kina, are vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification as the skeleton can dissolve or is more difficult to lay down in lower pH conditions. This is true of both the adults and the larval stages that are the focus of our studies. The choice of species was also influenced … Read More

Ask Facebook: how drunk were you last night? - Infrequently Asked Questions

Dec 31, 2014

Professor Antonia Lyons Feeling the after effects of a big New Years Eve? Then consider the role social media had to play. Massey University’s Professor Antonia Lyons and her team have studied young adults’ drinking and social media use. They found an airbrushed drinking culture with insidious alcohol marketing acting in ‘friend’ relationships. She explains why it matters that alcohol advertising is more targeted and widespread than you thought. What might New Years Eve have looked like for the participants of your study? Our participants were Pakeha, Maori and Pasifika young people aged between 18-25 years, from a range of backgrounds and geographic locations across the North Island. We asked groups of friends to talk to us about their use of social networking technology, their socialising, and their drinking. We also did interviews with a subset of these people, … Read More

Peacekeeping in the Pacific begins at home - Infrequently Asked Questions

Dec 17, 2014

Dr Steven RatuvaThe last decade in the Pacific has brought civil wars, riots, and a military coup. In coming years, regional stability is likely to be complicated by increasing interest from China. The University of Auckland’s Dr Steven Ratuva investigates the traditional, community-based ways of solving problems that are strongly adhered to still. Sometimes, these can be effective in ways that state-based systems are not. Do Pacific Island nations use formal justice systems, like the police or courts, less than other parts of the world? Pacific island nations use both the formal justice system as well as the culture-based systems of reconciliation and peace-building. One of the fundamental differences is that the formal justice system is based on retribution where offenders are punished and in some cases, rehabilitated. The traditional systems of peace-building are based on restorative principles where … Read More

Using computers: your way is the slow way - Infrequently Asked Questions

Dec 03, 2014

Professor Andy Cockburn One of the mysteries of the modern age is why, when there are lots of ways to improve efficiency and productivity with computer-based systems, people don’t use the tools available. Sophisticated file search utilities, shortcut keys, and powerful commands are seldom used. Canterbury University’s Professor Andy Cockburn explains why most people trap themselves in ‘beginner mode’, using tried, trusted, and slow methods instead of the faster alternatives available. Is it true that people don’t use keyboard shortcuts? Most users know and use a very small set of control keys, such as copy (CTRL-C) and paste (CTRL-V). When considering that many people use the same tools (e.g., Microsoft Word) for several hours on every working day for years or decades, it’s surprising that they never get around to learning and using more extensive shortcut vocabularies. We’ve built … Read More

Protecting the big fish in the sea - Infrequently Asked Questions

Nov 19, 2014

Dr Michael PlankThrow the small fish back, so they can grow and reproduce. So goes conventional scientific wisdom, as well as most of the world’s fishing regulations. But research – including Marsden-funded mathematical models by the University of Canterbury’s Michael Plank – is now showing that we should be catching more small fry, and letting the big fish go free. How did you get involved in this research? We were interested in a way of modelling fish populations from an academic point of view. The idea of balanced harvesting was put forward in an article in Science and we realised we had a model we could test it with. The result was not really what we expected, but when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. That’s the power of mathematics, giving you insight … Read More

A pacemaker for the stomach - Infrequently Asked Questions

Nov 05, 2014

Dr Peng Du at the clinic in KentuckyAfter no solid food for 16 months, an elderly man in Louisville, Kentucky, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A temporary pacemaker device fitted to his stomach had resuscitated the bioelectrical waves that govern digestion. Auckland University’s Dr Peng Du tells us from Kentucky how his Fast-Start Marsden grant can help explain what these waves mean, and what happens when things go wrong. Does the stomach beat like a heart, and can you feel it? They are similar. Your heart beat is governed by a bioelectrical impulse, and so is your stomach. The bioelectrical waves generated by the stomach’s network of pacemaker cells are very low in amplitude compared to the heart, making them a challenge to record. After a meal, the stomach works hard and contracts around three beats a … Read More

The low down on liquefaction - Infrequently Asked Questions

Oct 22, 2014

Dr Brendon Bradley Since the Canterbury earthquakes, most of us are familiar with the effects of liquefaction – sand volcanoes, sunken buildings, and vast, vast quantities of mud. But scientists still don’t fully understand the interactions between the deep soft soils of the Canterbury basin and the shaking seen on the ground. Canterbury University’s Dr Brendon Bradley explains how his Marsden grant will help us understand the ways other cities might move in future, and why Christchurch shook so much. Did liquefaction in Christchurch catch scientists by surprise? Prior research already suggested that Christchurch contained soils which would liquefy in future major earthquake shaking. However, the severity and spatial extent of liquefaction were somewhat surprising, with some structures sinking 40-100cm, and liquefaction impacts felt almost everywhere to the east of Hagley Park. Have many other places had similar problems? … Read More

Reshaping our race relations? A world history of Bluff - Infrequently Asked Questions

Oct 08, 2014

Dr Michael Stevens at the Bluff signpost to the world. In 1807 Napoleon closed Russian ports to British traders, starving the Royal Navy of crucial hemp and spar supplies. By 1813, attempts to find alternative sources had reached New Zealand – New South Wales merchants sent a ship to investigate flax growing in and near Bluff, and Māori methods of manufacturing fibre from it. By making such connections, University of Otago historian Dr Michael Stevens can view his hometown of Bluff through an international lens, reshaping our thinking about New Zealand’s economic history and race relations. Have international connections in New Zealand history been ignored in the past? I think people who lived in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century generally were much more conscious of New Zealand’s connections across and beyond the British Empire—the … Read More

Moa and Maori dogs – lessons for modern ecological life - Infrequently Asked Questions

Sep 24, 2014

Dr Priscilla Wehi As a zoologist living within a Māori community, Dr Priscilla Wehi became interested in the ecological information contained in Māori oral tradition. When she discovered a potentially new approach to exploring ecology by dating ancestral sayings, or whakataukī, she and Hēmi Whaanga at the University of Waikato developed a group. Their work on whakataukī has created an exciting window into past events such as the extinction of moa. Now the researcher – based at Landcare Research in Dunedin – is doing Marsden-funded research on a more recently absent species, the kurī or Māori dog. Why were kurī important for Māori? Kurī have been an integral part of Māori culture for hundreds of years – as a source of protein, and because the skins could be made into beautiful cloaks. They were also companion and hunting animals … Read More