Scientists awarded medals for research

Two University of Auckland scientists have been awarded top medals from the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS).

Professor Mark Costello

Marine researcher Professor Mark Costello and physicist Associate Professor Frédérique Vanholsbeeck receive the Shorland Medal and the Hill Tinsley Medal respectively for major and outstanding contributions in their fields.

Professor Costello is acknowledged for his pioneering work in the field of ocean diversity informatics which involve two free online databases, the World Register of Marine Species, which includes names and information on over 240,000 species, and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System which contains over 50 million field records of species.

Analyses of these databases has led to notable advances in biological and marine sciences and a rethinking of established viewpoints. The information has improved predictions of how many species may exist, increased the numbers of people describing species new to science, led to new data-driven maps of ocean biodiversity and helped pin-point the best location of marine reserves.

He has championed open data and led conceptual thinking that has guided change in scientific practice, making it more international and collaborative. Alongside this outstanding service to science, Professor Costello’s own research is internationally recognised and highly cited. His latest study is the discovery of a dip in marine diversity at the equator due to climate warming.

Associate Professor Vanholsbeeck is a physicist whose primary field of research is biophotonics, the use of optical and laser technologies for biomedical studies. Her research on monitoring bacteria using quantitative fluorescence spectroscopy – very accurate measurement of the spectral density of the fluorescence signal – has created a better understanding on how to monitor bacterial viability and antibiotic efficiency.

Associate Professor Frédérique Vanholsbeeck

She has developed a near-real time, cost-effective and portable fluorometer, the optrode, for quantifying fluorescence signals leading to better food safety and antibiotic sensitivity testing.

She leads a biophotonics lab at the University, undertaking both fundamental and applied research with diverse and varied interdisciplinary collaboration. A further notable aspect of her work has been the extent to which she mentors a vibrant group of early career researchers and postgraduate research students.

University of Auckland Dean of Science Professor John Hosking congratulated both recipients.

“These Medals are a significant acknowledgement of the contribution both researchers have made in their respective fields and I warmly congratulate them on having their work recognised in this way.”

The Shorland Medal is awarded in recognition of major and continued contribution to basic or applied research that has added significantly to scientific understanding or resulted in significant benefits to society.

The Hill Tinsley Medal is awarded for outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social sciences published by a scientist or scientists within 15 years of their PhD.

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