Tuesday 4 November 2014 9:43pm
Professor Judy Bennett's study of the history of coconuts as a commodity in the Pacific is one of 22 Otago projects to receive Marsden funding. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
A study looking at the history of coconuts as a commodity in the Pacific Islands is one of 22 world-class Otago research projects to receive grants in the latest Royal Society of New Zealand-administered Marsden funding round announced today.
Professor Judy Bennett of History & Art History will receive $710,000 over three years for her study Constant coconuts: a history of a versatile commodity in the Pacific. Together the Otago projects will receive $13.9M.
“Within the Pacific Islands, coconuts hold a status somewhat similar to bread in Europe – an everyday item, yet valued as not just the staff of life, but the tree of life. Coconuts provide food, drink, medicines, cosmetics, fuel and fibre. Yet despite its commonness, no commodity history of the coconut exists,” Professor Bennett explains.
"Within the Pacific Islands, coconuts hold a status somewhat similar to bread in Europe – an everyday item, yet valued as not just the staff of life, but the tree of life."
Supported by her Marsden grant, Professor Bennett will analyse how products from the ‘nut’ became commodities from 1840 onwards. She will investigate how production and consumption of coconuts affected individual communities and their culture, economies and environment within the Pacific and beyond.
While the distant past is mainly recorded in archives, Professor Bennett and her colleagues will also interview a network of growers, exporters and shippers in Vanuatu and Samoa. Manufacturers, retailers and consumers in Australia and New Zealand will also be interviewed.
Professor Bennett is delighted to receive funding for the project.
“I am particularly excited to have Kate Stevens as a postdoctoral fellow on this project. She a former graduate student who studied both History and Anthropology here in the Humanities Division and did her doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge.”
The 22 Otago projects to receive funds come from across the University’s divisions of Health Sciences, Humanities and Sciences. They include 16 standard projects and six ‘Fast-Start’ projects designed to support outstanding researchers early in their careers.
"I am delighted by these researchers’ success in what is an extremely competitive funding round."
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie warmly congratulated Otago’s latest Marsden recipients, who together gained one-quarter of the $55.65M available in this year’s round. In total, 101 contracts were distributed among six universities, two CRIs and three other research institutes.
“I am delighted by these researchers’ success in what is an extremely competitive funding round. Nationally, only 8.3 percent of the 1222 preliminary proposals received were ultimately funded,” Professor Blaikie says.
The new projects are being led by researchers from the University’s Departments of Anatomy, Anthropology & Archaeology, Applied Sciences, Biochemistry, Botany, Geology, History & Art History, Mathematics & Statistics, Microbiology & Immunology, its National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Pathology (Christchurch), Physiology, and Zoology.
Professor Blaikie says the researchers’ investigations cover a broad range of topics within the mathematical, physical, environmental, biological, biomedical and social sciences.
Otago’s Marsden recipients
• Evolution equations with memory and random fluctuations
Dr Boris Baeumer (Mathematics & Statistics) $565,000
Other Principal Investigator: Dr Mihaly Kovacs (Mathematics & Statistics)
• Pushed to the limits: investigating the significance of agricultural transfers and innovation in southern Polynesian colonisation
Associate Professor Ian Barber (Anthropology and Archaeology) $720,000
• Constant coconuts: a history of a versatile commodity in the Pacific world
Professor Judy Bennett (History and Art History) $710,000
• Functional and morphological dissection of a plastic neuroendocrine circuit
Dr Stephen Bunn (Anatomy) $773,000
• Functional dissection of a novel GABAergic pathway in the brain circuitry controlling fertility
Dr Rebecca Campbell (Physiology, Centre for Neuroendocrinology) $820,000
• Memory impairments after stroke, a stressful condition
Dr Andrew Clarkson (Anatomy) $773,000
• Mapping neuroplasticity in the brain
Associate Professor Ruth Empson (Physiology) $820,000
• Primed for action: bacterial adaptive immunity
Dr Peter Fineran (Microbiology & Immunology) $773,000
• Borrowing from nature’s library: fundamental insights into molecular recognition by chemoreceptors
Dr Monica Gerth (Biochemistry) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• Transitions in prehistory: subsistence and health change in northern Chile
Dr Sian Halcrow (Anatomy) $720,000
• Redox regulation of cell death
Associate Professor Mark Hampton (Pathology, Christchurch) $815,000
• The evolution of the functional diversity of forests
Professor Steven Higgins (Botany) $808,000
Other Principal Investigator: Associate Professor David Bryant (Mathematics and Statistics)
• The causes and consequences of multidimensional individual specialisation in freshwater fish
Dr Travis Ingram (Zoology) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• Oxytocin: a safety brake preventing excessive activation of the stress axis
Dr Karl Iremonger (Physiology) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• A new politics of peace? Investigations in contemporary pacifism and nonviolence
Professor Richard Jackson (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies) $595,000
• Captured in amber: ecological complexity in New Zealand's ancient araucarian forests
Associate Professor Daphne Lee (Geology) $810,000
Other Principal Investigator: Dr Dallas Mildenhall (GNS Science)
• Making war or babies: division of labour and social evolution in parasites
Professor Robert Poulin (Zoology) $790,000
• Are genetic shifts in dispersal ability key to resolving the “paradox of the great speciators”?
Dr Bruce Robertson (Zoology) $808,000
Other Principal Investigator: Dr Sonya Clegg (University of Oxford, UK)
• Dressing for survival and success: what pre-European Maori wore for adaptive realisation
Dr Catherine Smith (Applied Sciences) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• Slow creep or fast rupture in faults? Linking nature and experiment to understand the earthquake source
Dr Steven Smith (Geology) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• Developing inversion methods for non-stationary thinning of point processes
Dr Ting Wang (Mathematics & Statistics) $300,000 (Fast-Start)
• Use it or lose it: unravelling the genetic basis of flight-loss in New Zealand's alpine insects
Professor Jon Waters (Zoology) $808,000