Otago's climate researchers get deeper pockets

$88.1 million available to stop your Rob Roy melting

The University of Otago is a key partner for the second time in one of Government’s multi-million dollar National Science Challenges. The Deep South Challenge is the second challenge to have funding confirmed, with up to $88.1 million available over the next 10 years, inclusive of Crown Research Institute funds. The University’s strong knowledge base in climate processes, oceanography, Antarctic science and related research has been a key reason for the partnership.

The Deep South Challenge is one of 10 National Science Challenges. These are designed to take a strategic approach to the government's science investment by targeting a series of goals, which, if they were achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand. The Challenges aim to align and focus New Zealand's research on large and complex issues by drawing scientists together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration.

The University of Otago is also a partner in the “High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge,” which is working on developing high value foods with validated health benefits.

The Deep South Challenge involves researching Antarctic sea ice, with this data being used to help construct a New Zealand-specific model that can be used to make predictions about the climate and our environment in the future. By researching Antarctic sea ice growth and decay, researchers can look into how much the Southern Ocean and Antarctica are drivers of the New Zealand climate.

Professor Richard Blaikie, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise, is delighted with the announcement. Blaikie said, “Greatly improving our understanding of how changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean may affect New Zealand’s oceans, climate and eco-systems is a clear priority, and Otago researchers are more than up to this task. This significant funding will allow our scientists across a variety of disciplines to further their important work in this and other key areas of polar research.”

He said that the University’s involvement with the Government challenge “reflects the world-class contributions the University’s researchers are making in many aspects of polar and Southern Ocean research.”

The Challenge will be overlooked by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), with the University conducting research on the Deep South Challenge alongside Victoria University of Wellington, the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, Antarctica New Zealand, GNS Science, and Landcare Research.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2014.
Posted 9:16pm Sunday 10th August 2014 by Steph Taylor.