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Distinguished Research Medal awarded to leading Otago parasitologist

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Monday 22 July 2013 9:27am

A world leader in the study of parasite ecology and evolution, Professor Robert Poulin, is this year’s recipient of the University of Otago’s highest research honour, the Distinguished Research Medal.

Robert-PoulinProfessor Robert Poulin.

The University awards the medal for outstanding scholarly achievement, including the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, the development of innovative technology, or the development of concepts that lead to significant advances.

Announcing the honour, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne warmly congratulated Professor Poulin and said that he is a richly deserving recipient of the medal.

“I am delighted that the University can formally recognise the remarkable quality and quantity of Robert’s research output over the past two decades. His contributions have been world-class and wide-ranging and he continues to work at the forefront of his field,” Professor Hayne says.

Since moving to New Zealand to join the University’s Department of Zoology in 1992, Professor Poulin has produced an impressive body of research that has pushed out the frontiers of the understanding of host-parasite interactions at the individual, population and ecosystem levels.

His work, which combines theory with experimental studies, is providing new insights into many areas including how parasitism may interact with climate change or invasive species to influence ecosystems.

Professor Poulin grew up in Canada and after gaining his PhD from Université Laval in Quebec City, he held academic positions at several universities in that province before coming to Otago.

At Otago, Professor Poulin and his research team have made a number of significant contributions and discoveries. These include identifying parasites new to science and documenting transmission routes of numerous parasitic worms from host to host and their impacts on survival and reproduction of key marine and freshwater animal species.

His work has been widely cited and highly influential in developing our understanding of the basic processes involved in parasitic diseases. Professor Poulin’s book, Evolutionary Ecology of Parasites, is a worldwide standard text in his field.

Professor Poulin has a prolific publication record, having produced half a dozen books, 25 book chapters and around 450 peer-reviewed journal articles. He has been invited to give keynote or plenary talks at nearly 30 conferences and has undertaken senior editorial duties for several top international journals.

Since 2001, his programme of research has attracted five major grants from one of New Zealand’s premier investigator-led funding bodies, the Marsden Fund and enjoys extensive international collaborations with scientists in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, France and Israel.

Additionally Professor Poulin has also played an important role in training a new generation of scientists through supervising more than two dozen Masters and PhD students and his mentoring of post-doctoral fellows.

In 2001, his sustained scientific contributions were recognised through his election as a Fellow of the New Zealand Royal Society. That year he also received the New Zealand Association of Scientists' Research Medal and the following year he was awarded a prestigious James Cook Research Fellowship. In 2007 the Canadian Society of Zoologists presented him the Wardle Medal, and in 2011 he was honoured with New Zealand’s Hutton Medal for excellence in animal sciences.

Professor Poulin says he feels extremely honoured to see his name added to the list of previous recipients of this award, all of whom are truly eminent researchers.

“The news I had won came as a total surprise, but a very nice one! I am pleased to accept the medal in the name of the numerous bright and enthusiastic young researchers I have had the pleasure to work with and mentor over the years, as any success I have is in large part due to a team effort.”

The Distinguished Research Medal will be presented to Professor Poulin at a public lecture he will give in November.

For more information, please contact:

Professor Robert Poulin
Department of Zoology
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 7983

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