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Otago ocean chemistry research leader awarded Marsden Medal


Thursday 13 November 2014 9:52am

Professor Keith Hunter

Leading environmental and chemical oceanographer Professor Keith Hunter was announced last night as the co-recipient of the New Zealand Association of Scientists’ (NZAS) prestigious Marsden Medal recognising outstanding services to science.

Professor Hunter is the University of Otago’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences) and Co-Director of the NIWA-University of Otago Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography.

The Marsden Medal is awarded for a lifetime of outstanding service to the cause or profession of science, in recognition of service rendered to the cause or profession of science in the widest connotation of the phrase.

In awarding the Medal, the NZAS noted that Professor Hunter is a “recognised leader and innovator in environmental and chemical oceanography”.

His research is characterised by the application of fundamental chemistry to the investigation of oceanographic systems and the role of trace elements and, recently, CO₂ in ecological and biogeochemical processes. He has co-authored over 140 publications, including papers in Nature and Science, and his research has been supported by many Marsden and FRST research grants.

His close collaboration with NIWA scientists has resulted in the establishment of a joint Research Centre in Chemical Oceanography. In recognition of his contribution to New Zealand and international science, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, elected as a member of the American Geophysical Union, invited to chair international working groups, and in 2007 was awarded the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal. The NIWA-Otago Centre won the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2011.

The Centre is an international leader in the field of understanding of the chemistry of the oceans’ interactions with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Its internationally influential contributions include undertaking large-scale ocean fertilisation experiments in which iron triggered vast phytoplankton blooms that take up CO from the air.

Findings from its ground-breaking investigations into iron fertilisation have been published in numerous international peer-reviewed journals. Their analysis of the pitfalls of this and other forms of geo-engineering has also fed into international conferences on the subject and government decision making.

Professor Hunter graduated with first class honours from the University of Auckland, before completing his PhD as a Rutherford Scholar at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

After postdoctoral experience in France, he was appointed to the University of Otago Department of Chemistry in 1979. He received a personal chair in 1994 and was Head of Department for more than five years before taking up the Pro-Vice-Chancellor role.

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