Science New Zealand 2023 Awards

This year's annual awards celebrated 24 awardees across three award categories - Early Career Researcher, Individual / Lifetime Achievement and Team. A Supreme Award winner was chosen from the 24 awardees. 

Supreme Award Winner

Insect pest destroyer takes top honours at Science New Zealand Awards

A scientist who has successfully dealt to some of our worst pasture-destroying insect pests and saved farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually has won top honours at the 2023 Science New Zealand Awards. 

Dr Stephen Goldson, of AgResearch, edged out 23 others – both teams and individuals - to be chosen as the Supreme Winner of the 2023 awards at Parliament this week.

Dr Goldson has devoted many years of work to combatting agricultural pests, with a particular focus on three species of weevil that arrived here from South America decades ago.

As well as neutralising the pests and producing big savings for the primary sector, his work  has led to environmental benefits through reduced pesticide use, improved pasture health, and corresponding boosts in farm production and profitability.

The three pasture-destroying weevil species – Argentine stem weevil, clover root weevil, and lucerne weevil – had evaded attempts to exterminate them over many years. After exhaustive research and testing, Dr Goldson and his team introduced tiny wasps from offshore that lay eggs inside the weevils, making them sterile and killing them. 

Dr Goldson is internationally recognised in his specialist areas of biological control of pests and biosecurity. He has held many leadership roles in science to provide advice to government and primary industries.

This has included being Director of the multi-partner science collaboration Better Border Biosecurity (B3), and acting as strategic adviser to the former Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, particularly focused on primary industries and the environment.

He is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science, the Royal Entomological Society of London and the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2011 he was vice-president of the Royal Society of New Zealand (Biological and Life Sciences) and Chairman of its Academy.

In 2013 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his contribution to science.  

There were 23 other awards presented across three categories at the seventh annual Science New Zealand Awards this week. Categories are Early Career Researcher, Lifetime Achievement, and Team. The Awards celebrate and recognise outstanding achievement in science that benefits Aotearoa New Zealand.

Science New Zealand represents the seven Crown Research Institutes and Callaghan Innovation. The 24 awardees and their categories are as follows:

Early Career Researchers


  • An individual who has completed their highest research qualification in the past 10 years
  • and has made an outstanding contribution to the values and purpose of their entity through their research and engagement with colleagues, partners, and wider community - nationally or globally.


Dr Aswathi Soni - AgResearch

Aswathi’s research has significantly advanced knowledge in food safety. She’s had  substantial engagement across a broad range of stakeholders including MPI, Te Pū Oranga Whenua, industry associations, and collaborating CRIs and universities. She has developed hyperspectral imaging to enable early detection of microbial pathogens in food within minutes of scanning. This greatly enhances food safety by allowing prompt action to prevent the spread of contaminants, safeguarding both consumer health and brand reputation.

See Aswathi’s video here

Dr Kirill Lagutin – Callaghan Innovation

Kirill is a Principal Scientist in the Lipids and Natural Products team at Callaghan Innovation.
His expertise is in applying the very latest analytical technology particularly in food authenticity, proof of origin and fraud detection. His work has assisted partners in honey, wine, fruit, and dairy, as well as commercial analytical laboratories, research organisations, and universities.

View Kirill's video here.

 Charlotte Gilkison – ESR

Charlotte has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.She helped set up the system that would become our COVID-19 Surveillance Programme. Charlotte has also become an expert in the incidence of leprosy in the Pacific, and her expertise was invaluable when highly infectious measles emerged in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2019. She is currently seconded to Te Whatu Ora’s National Public Health Service (NPHS), co-creating an ESR and NPHS work programme for improving public health outbreak information systems.

View Charlotte's video here.

Dr Jess Hillman – GNS Science

Jess is an outstanding marine geologist/geophysicist who leads large and complex science projects exploring Aotearoa New Zealand’s offshore realm. The programmes she leads involve dozens of scientists and students from multiple countries. Jess is also very active in community outreach and taking young learners into the field to inspire their curiosity about science.  

View Jess' video here.

Dr Dan Richards – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

Dan works to better understand how terrestrial landscapes can support climate adaptation in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as integrating objectives of climate mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and multiple benefits to people. This work is underpinned by a deep understanding of a variety of environments from native to urban ecosystems.

View Dan's video here.

Rebecca Welsh – NIWA

Rebecca is an outstanding climate risk modeller and communicator. Her work evaluating flood risk from property to national scales is used widely across central and local government and the private sector. Her research has already been incorporated into new models and maps for New Zealand’s coastal floodplain risk. It has also been used across six Pacific Island countries to profile building, infrastructure and economic risk to coastal flooding and sea-level rise.

View Rebecca's video here

Dr Brendon Malcolm - Plant & Food Research

Brendon is a soil scientist at Plant & Food Research who works with farmers to develop tools that lead to better environmental outcomes and improved profitability. Over the past eight years he has led research which has proven sowing a catch crop after winter forage grazing can reduce nitrogen leaching by up to 60 percent. He has a strong focus on creating readily adoptable practices and communicates across multiple channels, including social media, to share his science with farmers, and the wider public.

View Brendon's video here.

Dr Bing Song - Scion

You’d think leading research projects would keep Dr Bing Song of Scion busy enough.
But he still finds time to review manuscripts for journals in his field, review PhD theses for universities, mentor colleagues, and to be an editor of two international academic journals.
He has a growing international collaboration network with links to China, Hong Kong, France and Australia.

View Bing's here

Individual / Lifetime Achievement Awards


  • An individual who is a current or recently retired employee of a SNZ member, and 
  • has made an outstanding contribution to advancing New Zealand's economic, environmental, social or cultural well-being through:
    • their work over time; or
    • a specific discovery, development or application.


Dr Stephen Goldson – AgResearch 

Stephen has devoted decades of work to combatting agricultural pests, with a particular focus on three species of pasture-destroying weevil that arrived here from South America decades ago. As well as neutralising the pests and producing big savings for the primary sector, his work has led to environmental benefits through reduced pesticide use, improved pasture health, and corresponding boosts in farm production and profitability. Dr Goldson is internationally recognised in his specialist areas of biological control of pests and biosecurity. He has held many leadership roles in science to provide advice to government and primary industries.

View Stephen's video here

Dr Keith Jones – Callaghan Innovation 

Keith has devoted an impressive 44-year career to Callaghan Innovation’s Measurement Standards Laboratory, positioning it as a leader in electrical metrology. Keith's global impact extends to international collaborations, including a secondment at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. Closer to home, his influence extends to New Zealand's electricity supply industry, where his work resolved billing issues and contributed to industry codes of practice, bolstering consumer and supplier confidence.

View Keith's video here

Dr Sue Huang – ESR

Sue is a virology expert who is recognised as an international leader in the fight against the world’s most prevalent infectious diseases, and whose insights protect us all. Sue is Principal Investigator of the internationally-backed Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS) studies which investigate how viruses are transmitted and if early exposure can produce stronger immunity. Sue is highly regarded for her kindness and her enthusiasm for science – whether she’s working with colleagues, media, or the community of volunteers proud to participate in her research.

 View Sue's video here.

Dr Mark Chadwick – GNS Science 

Mark has been a central figure of GNS Science’s GeoNet programme since its inception in 2002. His expertise in seismological research, data innovation, and the computer programming underpins GeoNet - New Zealand’s core platform for geohazard data. An unfailingly generous mentor, Mark’s tireless work over his 30-year career in the service of New Zealanders, inspires respect and gratitude.

View Mark's video here.

Dr Chris Phillips – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research 

Chris is a Senior Researcher in Erosion Processes at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research with professional expertise in erosion research and integrated catchment management. His scientific knowledge on soil bioengineering and its application to erosion and sediment control has informed central and regional government policy development, including sustainable land management policy.

View Chris' video here.

Dr Phil Barnes – NIWA 

Phil has made a seminal contribution to marine geoscience research and hazard risk assessment over the past three decades. His pioneering investigations revolutionised our perspective of the fault lines and active tectonic processes that shape New Zealand and its surrounding seafloor – from the Hikurangi to Fiordland Margins. The International Ocean Discovery Program missions he led in the Hikurangi Margin included the first to focus on slow-slip subduction faults, bringing new understanding of this hazard on a local and global scale.

View Phil's video here

Dr David Teulon – Plant & Food Research 

David is an entomologist and Principal Scientist at Plant & Food Research. His leadership in biosecurity research has been over a period of ever-increasing biosecurity risks. He catalysed resources from science, government, industry and community interests, to provide tangible science outcomes for significant biosecurity threats to Aotearoa New Zealand such as Queensland fruit fly, myrtle rust, brown marmorated stink bug and fall armyworm.

View David's video here.

Dr Tanira Kingi – Scion 

With more than 30 years' experience in agriculture, forestry and horticulture, Tanira Kingi (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangitihi, Te Arawa) has significantly contributed to New Zealand’s primary industry and the Māori community. He has mentored young Māori researchers and is considered a lead expert in Māori land tenure and organizational structures. He holds several government and ministerial advisory appointments including his appointment as a Climate Change Commissioner.

View Tanira's video here.

Team Award


  • A team refers to a group of three or more people, including at least one researcher. Not all the team members need to be from a Science New Zealand member.
  • The team has made an outstanding contribution through their research, engagement and/or other activity, which has advanced New Zealand's economic, environmental, social or cultural well-being.


Animal Biosecurity Research Team - AgResearch

AgResearch’s Animal Biosecurity Research Team has undertaken high-quality research to develop vaccines and diagnostic tools for control and identification of disease outbreaks. It has also developed systems for monitoring, reporting, and managing disease incursions. Over the past 30 years the Team has made continual improvements to the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, estimated to cost New Zealand $100 million-a-year. They have also developed new diagnostic tests for early detection of cattle, deer, and sheep with Johne’s disease to enable the immediate removal of infected animals to reduce spread of infection in herds.

View the team's video here.

The Bioprocessing Fermentation Team – Callaghan Innovation

The Bioprocessing Fermentation Team at Callaghan Innovation is at the forefront of commercial projects involving microorganism development and metabolite production through fermentation processes. They provide extensive services to the food and beverage industries and also have applications for agritech, and human and animal health industries.

View the team's video here

 Lumi Drug Scan Team – ESR 

This Team worked closely with Police to develop a revolutionary phone app to instantly enable frontline officers to identify drug substances. The technology uses infrared to determine if cocaine, ecstasy, or methamphetamine are present. The technology is powered by sophisticated machine learning algorithms in the cloud developed from over 600,000 scans from drug samples curated by ESR scientists. Lumi™ is a game-changing innovation supporting better policing and drug harm reduction in communities.

View the team's video here.

New Zealand National Seismic Hazard Model Team - GNS Science

The New Zealand National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM) provides a science-based estimate of the likelihood and strength of earthquake shaking, which might occur in different parts of the country. It is crucial information used by government and industry to improve earthquake resilience and manage risks to safety, security, and the economy. The NSHM informs technical standards for earthquake engineering design and provides important information for the insurance industry, and managing national infrastructure, and emergency planning and response.

 View the team's video here.

LUCAS Land Use Map (LUM) 2020 Team – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research 

The Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) Land Use Map (LUM) Team has made a substantial contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand’s environmental and scientific endeavours, particularly relating to climate change reporting and emissions monitoring. LUM provides a comprehensive and consistent time series of land use change data. LUM ensures New Zealand meets the requirements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Good Practice Guidance (IPCCGPG).

 View the team's video here

The Cyclone Risk & Response Team - NIWA

The success of NIWA’s Cyclone Risk & Response Team demonstrates the crucial role targeted science can play in preparing communities for extreme weather events and supporting speedy recovery. During Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, NIWA’s Team delivered pre-landfall impact briefings to key agencies and our field teams captured time-critical river flow, sediment deposit and marine impact data in the immediate aftermath of the event. This work involved close collaboration with colleagues from across New Zealand’s science sector to ensure affected communities, regional and local authorities were fully informed.

View the team's video here

The Cyclone Gabrielle Response Team – Plant & Food Research

In response to widespread devastation caused to Hawke’s Bay’s horticulture industry by Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, staff from Plant & Food Research immediately began collaborating with the sector, offering their expertise to address the pressing challenges facing growers. The team provided orchardists with information and expertise to enable evidence-based decisions to be made quickly during extremely trying conditions. These efforts have helped to position the industry to ‘grow back better’ and face future challenges with added resilience.

View the team's video here.

Microplastics Team – Scion

Scion’s Microplastics Team works to determine how much microplastic is in our environment, what is it, where is it coming from and what environmental consequences does it have. The Team’s insights have been sent to regional councils and national environmental groups allowing them to adjust their plastic clean-up plans. The work will ultimately lead to strategies to reduce microplastics pollution and its impact on marine and human life.

View the team's video here.