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University of Otago grows Pacific science connections

Thursday 27 February 2020 11:19pm

Dr Losa Moata’ane, the University's new Associate Dean (Pacific) in the Division of Sciences.

Building and connecting the University of Otago’s work in science with the Pacific, in order to contribute to development and help address the region’s challenges, is the priority of Dr Losa Moata’ane.

Dr Moata’ane has recently been appointed to the role of Associate Dean (Pacific) in the University of Otago’s Division of Sciences.

“As science is so applied and encompasses so many disciplines, it has the potential to make a huge contribution to the Pacific and its people,” Dr Moata’ane says.

“Science permeates every part of life and can make a huge contribution to the Pacific, but the narrative hasn’t been written that way.”

Tongan-born and raised Dr Moata’ane completed her secondary schooling in New Zealand, and followed that with a Bachelor of Nursing and Masters in Human Nutrition at the University of Otago. After graduation she joined the Department of Human Nutrition where she established a Pacific Research team.

"As science is so applied and encompasses so many disciplines, it has the potential to make a huge contribution to the Pacific and its people."

With a background of over 20 years of working in health policy and the education sector, Dr Moata’ane has an extensive wealth of experience across research, policy and community engagement both domestically and internationally.

In 2017 Dr Moata’ane completed her Doctorate in Public Health in which she researched equity as a core component for health policy development.

Dr Moata’ane says the breadth of research undertaken across the Division of Sciences can add value to the wider Pacific region, and also create opportunities such as research and student exchanges.

In conjunction with her Associate Dean role, Dr Moata’ane will also hold a part-time research position with the Department of Human Nutrition’s World Health Organisation collaborating centre. The centre serves the Western Regional Pacific, including parts of Asia, with capacity building and community health research.

“I am a strong advocate for nutrition in the Pacific and the collaborating centre has built strong relationships across the region which will provide an excellent network for this role,” Dr Moata’ane says.

The Division of Science has also been building its relationship with Tonga and recently working with the local Ministry of Education on professional development of local science teachers.

Dr Moata’ane says this is an example of a great initiative to work collaboratively with different sectors to address the importance of science both in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Division of Science Professor Richard Barker says Dr Moata’ane will add huge value to this important role with her knowledge, experience and close links she has had with Otago over the years.

“As a science intensive university based in the Pacific we are addressing many similar challenges, so Otago is keen to partner with our Pacific neighbours to add value and support these opportunities,” Professor Barker says.