On the 12th November, the achievements and contributions of five innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars were celebrated at Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery. This was the second of three 2020 Research Honours Aotearoa events to be held around the country by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The Society’s oldest medal, the Hutton Medal, first awarded in 1911, was presented to Distinguished Professor Neil Gemmell, University of Otago, for "fundamentally changing our understanding of animal ecology and evolution and driving the development of new approaches for conservation and management of the world’s rarest species. Using the latest molecular genetic and analytical approaches, Neil brings together multidisciplinary teams that are shedding light on long-time enigmas such as the evolutionary basis of mutations that affect only males but are passed on by the mother, sex change in fish and, recently, mapping the genome of our unique tuatara."
Upon accepting his award, Neil said he was proud to be part of that community that has provided deeper insight into Aotearoa New Zealand’s remarkable fauna, but that many challenges lie ahead.
“In particular, it is vital that we start to actively manage the impacts that climate change and other factors that, left unchecked, will result in a rapid deterioration in our natural systems. In order to understand the pace and scale of the ecological change we are witnessing, we first need to understand the natural diversity and complexity of the systems we seek to maintain and then have the capability to monitor how these change over time."
Prof. Neil Gemmell receiving the Hutton medal and certificate by the Mayor of Christchurch City, Lianne Dalziel