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Alumnus- academic collaboration yields sports research

Wednesday 29 August 2018 11:46am

Otago alumnus and Chiefs Super Rugby dietitian Dane Baker

A partnership between Otago’s Department of Human Nutrition and Otago alumnus and sports dietitian Dane Baker has yielded important collaborative opportunities.

Mr Baker, who gained a Bachelor of Science majoring in Human Nutrition in 2003 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics in 2005, is a dietitian for the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise and High Performance Sport New Zealand.

He will deliver the inaugural Sport and Exercise Nutrition Spring Public Lecture entitled “Sports Nutrition: Rugby Innovation, Research & Application” at Otago’s Dunedin campus on September 5.

After graduation Mr Baker worked clinically as a Diabetes Dietitian for the Waitemata DHB before becoming immersed in sports nutrition.

In 2008 he worked in Qatar as a sports nutrition specialist at ASPETAR, a world-leading FIFA sports medicine facility. Since returning to New Zealand in 2009 he has worked with the Chiefs rugby team, and was proud to be involved with their title-winning campaigns in 2012 and 2013. He has also helped establish an innovative research programme with Otago and Waikato Universities which drives many of the nutrition and sports medicine interventions the Chiefs team use.

He has also worked with New Zealand Swimming, NZ Men’s Hockey, Counties Rugby and New Zealand Football.

With High Performance Sport New Zealand he is currently a Senior Performance Nutritionist and the lead provider for the Black Ferns 7's Team and NZ Men’s Hockey Team.

He is also involved with numerous research projects and is a guest lecturer in Sports Nutrition at the universities of Auckland and Otago.

Dr Katherine Black, a Senior Lecturer with Otago’s Department of Human Nutrition, says work undertaken with Mr Baker has allowed her to conduct novel research and “work in an area that [she is] extremely passionate about”.

Katherine Black image
Dr Katherine Black

The collaboration has also benefitted the Department in numerous ways, and more than 15 postgraduate students have worked on research projects that he has been involved with; findings from these have been incorporated into the Department’s undergraduate papers.

“Dane and I have eight peer-reviewed publications, including a review on the macronutrient needs of athletes. Working with Dane and the Chiefs allows our research to have impact on policies and protocols – and the research and findings have also led to a number of international collaborations,” Dr Black says.

Lectures such as the inaugural spring talk, which is supported by the University of Otago Continuing Education Fund, and wider engagement is a positive for both academics and the public, she says.

“It’s really good practice to spread the work we have done beyond scientific journals. The Department really enjoys engaging with the community because it feeds back into issues we may research in future.”

“Manipulating dietary intakes to improve performance and or health is not only useful for Super Rugby players but also for weekend warriors. Some of our research has shown that nutrition knowledge was one of the main things elite rugby players wished they had known at a younger age so maybe we can lay some good nutrition principles in any aspiring rugby stars that attend.”

She also hopes engagement will lead to greater numbers of young people who are interested in sports or science – or both – seeing that the intersection of science and professional sports nutrition creates exciting career opportunities.

“When I was at school a talk by the local teams’ scientist highlighted a career pathway I had never considered before, and this has led to some really rewarding research in the field.”

Dane will delivers the Inaugural Sport and Exercise Nutrition Spring Public Lecture
“Sports Nutrition: Rugby Innovation, Research & Application”
Wednesday 5 September
6pm – 7pm
Archway 2, University of Otago