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Wednesday 7 April 2021 3:46pm

Neil Gemmell image
Distinguished Professor Neil Gemmell.

Distinguished Professor Neil Gemmell has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. He joins 26 New Zealand scholars being made Fellows or Honorary Fellows for their excellence in research and advancement of science, technology or the humanities.

In announcing this year's honours, the Society credited Professor Gemmell for his contribution to genomics, evolutionary biology, conservation biology and reproductive biology.

“It is always heartening to have my work and that of our research team recognised by others. Being named a Fellow is nice recognition of the work I've undertaken and led over several decades which has contributed to our nation's science capacity,” Professor Gemmell says.

The Society also noted his pioneering genetic approaches that have produced new tools to control the world's most invasive species and enhance the conservation of some of the world's rarest species, like whio and kakī.

Being elected a Fellow provides further acknowledgment for Professor Gemmell, having been awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi's Hutton Medal in 2020.

“The last few years were dominated by the tuatara genome, which we published last year in Nature, and our adventure to Loch Ness to highlight the power of environment DNA in 2018. We continue to work on those projects, as well as projects spanning sex change in fish to how parasites manipulate the behaviour of their hosts. However, the real growth area in our lab is in the use of environmental DNA to investigate biodiversity, detect and track invasive species, and as a monitoring tool for public health, including work investigating Covid-19 in wastewater,” Professor Gemmell says.

Geography Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett and former Te Tumu School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies Head Poia Rewi were also elected Fellows.

Chair of the Royal Society Academy Executive Committee Professor Charlotte Macdonald FRSNZ congratulated all 27 Fellows or Honorary Fellows named this year.

“The newly-elected Fellows have made amazing contributions to knowledge in their fields and across disciplinary boundaries. Their election adds significantly to the breadth of knowledge held within the Academy; they will help support the purpose of Te Apārangi to engage with and inform New Zealanders on topics important to all,” Professor McDonald says.

The new Fellows will be formally inducted at an event in Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington on 29 April.

The new Fellows are:

• Professor Doug Armstrong, Massey University

• Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes, Massey University

• Professor Deidre Brown, University of Auckland

• Professor Charles Eason, Lincoln University

• Dr Susan Gardiner, Plant & Food Research

• Distinguished Professor Neil Gemmell, University of Otago

• Professor Gail Gillon, University of Canterbury

• Professor Jarrod Haar, Auckland University of Technology

• Garth Harmsworth, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research

• Professor Rawinia Higgins, Victoria University of Wellington –Te Herenga Waka

• Professor Andrew Hill, University of Auckland, Middlemore Hospital

• Professor Patria Hume, Auckland University of Technology

• Professor Robert Jahnke, Massey University

• Professor Robin Kearns, University of Auckland

• Dr Rangi Matamua

• Professor Janet McLean, University of Auckland

• Professor Julian Paton, University of Auckland

• Professor Steven Ratuva, University of Canterbury

• Professor Poia Rewi, University of Otago

• Associate Professor Damon Salesa, University of Auckland

• Professor Caroline Saunders, Lincoln University

• Distinguished Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith, Massey University

• Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett, University of Otago

• Professor Denise Wilson, Auckland University of Technology

• Professor Zhi-Qiang Zhang, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research

The Society also announced the election of two Ngā Ahurei Honore a Te Apārangi Honorary Fellows. The election of Honorary Fellows aims to encourage strong ties with leading international scientists and scholars and New Zealand's research community.

The new Honorary Fellows are:

• Professor Penelope Brothers, Australian National University, Australia

• Distinguished Professor Ravendra (Ravi) Naidu, University of Newcastle, Australia

• Distinguished Professor Ravendra (Ravi) Naidu, University of Newcastle, Australia

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