Christmas Appeal gives boost to forest-health research

The 2021 Christmas Appeal shows it’s not only large philanthropic donations that can help enable valuable research at the University, but that many small gifts can quickly add up to make a real difference.

A researcher working with small kauri plants
There remains much still left to do in the battle to protect our kauri. Photo: Ian Horner

The appeal raised funds for kauri-dieback research, and received hundreds of donations from alumni, staff and former staff, and other supporters. In total, 419 gifts were received raising $61,490. This was a marked increase on the 2020 Christmas Appeal, during which 235 donations were received.

Kauri dieback is caused by the microscopic but highly aggressive pathogen Phytophthora agathidicida, which attacks the mighty trees’ roots and damages the tissues that carry nutrients and water within a tree.

Researchers at the University of Auckland are already making progress in the battle to protect our kauri, but there remains much still left to do. The funds raised through the Christmas Appeal will go towards supporting young and talented postgraduate students who are undertaking research into ways to contain, treat and manage forest health.

One of those students is Shannon Hunter. The PhD candidate, who was able to pursue full-time study thanks to support from the George Mason Centre for the Natural Environment, says funding from the Christmas Appeal will help researchers like her learn more about Phytophthora agathidicida.

“Each donation has a direct impact on our research efforts,” says Hunter. “Smaller donations cover the costs associated with processing soil samples which are vital to confirm the presence of the pathogen. Although we can see visual cues that the pathogen may be present (like canopy thinning and trunk lesions) presence of the pathogen can only be confirmed through culturing or DNA-based work.

“While I don’t see a miraculous cure being found soon, it is promising to see what we do know being put into practice to limit spread, improve forest health and manage the impacts of the disease. It’s a huge effort from everyone and I feel very privileged to be able to work in this space.”

The Christmas Appeal was one of many successful appeals held throughout 2021, with funds also raised for heart research and student support.

Media contact

Helen Borne | Communications Manager
Alumni Relations and Development