These annual awards recognise the achievements of members across a number of categories:
- Best Masterate Thesis in Geography
- Best Doctoral Thesis in Geography
- Emerging Researcher in Geography
- Collaborative Research Involving Geographers
- Graduate Research Supervision in Geography
- Excellence in Teaching in Geography (all settings).
The procedure and criteria for nomination of candidates. Nominations are due by April 30th of each year.
The judging panel in 2006 made a number of comments which may be useful to consider when putting together a dossier of evidence for a nomination. Judges Comments.
Best PhD Thesis
Dr Alastair J.H. Clement (Massey University)
Holocene sea-level change in the New Zealand archipelago and the geomorphic evolution of a Holocene coastal plain incised-valley system: the lower Manawatu Valley, North Island, New Zealand. Massey University, 2011.
Alastair Clement was awarded his PhD in Geography in 2011 by Massey University, graduating in November. Alastair’s doctoral research has made a significant contribution to geographic knowledge, both nationally and internationally within two key fields of coastal research: (i) sea-level change; and (ii) the evolution of wave-dominated incised-valley systems.
In connection with sea-level change, Alastair completed the first critical review of sea-level research undertaken in New Zealand since 1953, concluding that the current state of knowledge is extremely poor: the existing records are fragmented and unreliable histories of Holocene sea-level fluctuations. Alastair therefore sought to refine and revise current understanding of Holocene sea-level changes in New Zealand, undertaking the first research in this area in over 25 years, since Gibb (1986; 1). This research was based on assembling the most comprehensive database of palaeo sea-level indicators in New Zealand to date. Alastair’s approach to understanding sea-level fluctuations in New Zealand was unique, as he moved away from an all-inclusive, New Zealand-wide reconstruction, to local-scale reconstructions for individual regions within New Zealand. This work identified: (i) a north-south trend in Holocene sea-level fluctuations in the New Zealand region; (ii) sea-level fluctuations at the local-scale; and (iii) revised the timing of the culmination of the Holocene marine transgression presented by Gibb (1986; 1) from 6,500 to 7,500 cal yr BP. The result is a major paradigm shift in how Holocene sea-level change in New Zealand must be approached, as this work clearly identified that New Zealand regional sea-level datasets may mask or hide local-scale fluctuations in sea-level. Alastair’s initial sea-level reconstructions are cited regularly by coastal studies in New Zealand (e.g. 2-8). This component of Alastair’s thesis also has application at the international scale, since this research provides the most reliable record of Holocene sea-level fluctuation in the SW Pacific, which will inform the development of models of future climate change.
In the field of wave-dominated coastal plain incised-valley systems, Alastair presented the first conceptual model of the evolution of such a system in New Zealand, based on a dataset of over 400 borelogs, 70 vibracores and 14 radiocarbon ages. This work is significant in an international context as established models of incised-valley evolution are based on large estuaries (40-100 km in length), with low river discharges and limited sediment supplies, on tectonically stable coastlines (e.g. 9-11). The Manawatu valley, in contrast, is sited in a tectonically active landscape, comparatively small in size, and subject to large river flows and sediment loads. The key distinction identified between the established models of incised-valley evolution and Alastair’s research is the rapid speed at which the Manawatu valley was infilled following the Holocene sea-level highstand, which eliminated accommodation space at a rate not observed in any previous case studies of incised-valley evolution. Alastair’s research therefore identified and addressed an important gap in existing models of incised-valley evolution, providing a significant contribution to knowledge of these systems.
Alastair’s thesis therefore provides a highly significant contribution to geographic knowledge in New Zealand, which will be ultimately communicated through a series of international journal articles currently in preparation and review.
Dr Phil Bartie (University of Canterbury)
Phil’s thesis was awarded on 3rd October 2011, and conferred on 29th Feb 2012. It was entitled “Advances in Visibility Modelling in Urban Environments to support Location Based Services”. In it, Phil developed a visibility model to support a number of innovative location based service functions in an urban region and applied this to pedestrian navigation in urban environments. His work has contributed a number of important advances in support of visibility modeling; his most significant contribution being the extension of existing qualitative spatial reasoning models for automatically generating a description of the characteristics of features such as buildings in an urban environment and their spatial relationships. This, for example, enables speech based interfaces to automatically express descriptions of an urban environment in relation to a user’s location such as “the small red building on the left”, or “when you get to Manchester Street you will see the church opposite the park”. The thesis includes six journal papers, all of which are in journals that are “well regarded in this scientific discipline. In particular the International Journal of Geographical Information Science, GeoInformatica, and ... the Journal of Spatial Information Science have highest standards in their review processes” (quotes from the overseas examiner). These quotes from the two examiners’ reports sum up many of the qualities of this thesis: “the work presented demonstrates an original and valuable contribution to current research in improving Location Based Services by elements that relate to human experience of (urban) space.” (overseas examiner). “This is a very good body of work investigating how spatial and attribute information in the visual field can be processed and delivered to support Location Based Services, for which the candidate is to be congratulated. .....a substantive and valuable piece of research” (NZ examiner). Befitting his excellence, Phil has moved on to a postdoctoral post at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh; one of the top departments in the world. Finally, in support of this nomination, both examiners were approached to comment on the overall contribution Phil’s PhD has made to the discipline and said as follows: “I’ve seen rarely such a carefully designed and in-depth studied thesis. The accumulated papers not only demonstrated the success of his work in international peer review, but also provided an outstanding publication record for a PhD student” – overseas examiner; “one of the best I've read. It makes several notable and critical original contributions to the Location Based Service GIScience research area, a topic that has increasing relevance for the world at large through the ubiquity of smartphone technology. The thesis is an apt statement of the excellent research that Phil has completed, further evidenced by several publications on the thesis matter in quality geospatial journals.” – NZ examiner.
Best Masterate Thesis
Anne-Marie Snider (Victoria University of Wellington)
Anne-Marie Snider graduated earlier this year with a Masters of Science in Human Geography (with merit). Her topic was concerned with well-being, or rather ill-being, and was entitled: Youth suicide, subjective well-being and the role of place in New Zealand. An abstract is included at the end of this citation. In her thesis (which I supervised), Anne-Marie advanced an argument she refers to as the ‘generational switch’ which refers to the change in relative levels of well-being across the generations over the last 60 years. This ‘switch’, she argues, is reflected in the decline in the suicide rate of older people and its rise among younger people, as shown in the following figure. In advancing this argument, Anne-Marie focuses attention on the wider social changes that engulf generations and the way they influence the way young people in particular perceive their circumstances relative to those of an older generation. Her thesis also goes on to explore the heightened sensitivity young people’s subjective wellbeing exhibit to the place or city context in which they live. On the basis of her thesis, Anne-Marie was offered and has accepted a research position created especially for her at the prestigious Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University, Brisbane. http://www.griffith.edu.au/health/australian-institute-suicide-research-preventionThe offer was primarily on the basis of the quality of her thesis. Anne-Marie circulated her thesis to a number of people in the industry as part of her job search strategy. In one reply Dr Jerry Varghese ( Clinical Director of MidCentral DHB, Mental Health, Addiction and Psychogeriatric Services) wrote:
“I found the work very interesting and based on a well researched and grounded evidence base…..As part of my work, I have to often give opinions at the coroners court in their investigations into suicide. I think that your thesis would be extremely useful reading for the coroners. With your permission can I please pass your work on to them… It is extremely important to recognise that suicide is an unpleasant and unwanted outcome that has multiple facets and that it’s not necessarily a consequence of failed mental health input, as often viewed by the general public or coronal services. I would strongly urge you to also publish your work. It’s a good piece of academic discourse, that needs to go out to a wider international audience.”
External examiner’s comments
Dr Sarah Lovell, Lecturer in Public Health, Department of Preventative and Social Medicine, University of Otago (and a geographer by training) made the following observations:
“Exploring the relationship between suicide and subjective wellbeing in New Zealand is not only conceptually challenging but tests the limits of available data….. Anne-Marie’s level of analysis is impressive particularly for a masters student. Anne-Marie’s engagement with theory, her analysis, and interpretations indicate a very able and engaged student….Anne-Marie effectively marries the work of Durkheim with theories of social capital, and growing socio-economic inequalities. The contribution she makes to geography is particularly important … She attributes low levels of satisfaction in youth, in part, to lower levels of social connection to the cities in which they live indicating a heightened sensitivity to place. These findings are the result of a great deal of very good work that Anne-Marie has undertaken with impressive insight…..
Best PhD Thesis
Dr Tim Appelhans
Tim Appelhans was awarded his PhD, titled ‘A climatology of particulate pollution in Christchurch’ in 2010 on an environmental topic that has long been of concern to the city of Christchurch. It represents a refreshingly new and innovative approach to a longstanding environmental issue, by integrating advanced statistical techniques with time series analysis, mesoscale atmospheric modelling, and synoptic climatology. This wide-ranging approach has produced important new insights into the relationship between atmospheric processes and particulate air pollution that have significance for air quality management.
Dr Edward Challies
Edward Challies was awarded his PhD in geography in 2010 by Victoria University. The work sought to bring together global value chains work and rural livelihoods in order to analyse the impacts of neoliberal export orientation on small scale farmers in Latin America. It was highly original from two points of view. Conceptually, work marrying the livelihoods and value chain approaches in geography is only in its infancy and the work certainly made important contributions in that regard. Empirically, as the New Zealand external examiner Mike Roche commented the work ‘makes an important contribution with respect to the analysis of the global fresh fruit and vegetables complex’. This work is important for geography as it provides an example of the analysis of the impacts of ‘global’ scale processes on local geographies.Thesis
Best Masterate Thesis
Woodrow (Woody) completed his Masters thesis in Geography at the University of Canterbury. His thesis was entitled “Cyclist exposure to traffic pollution: microscale variance, the impact of route choice and comparisons to other modal choices in two New Zealand cities”. The project examined the differential pollution exposure of cyclists to other road users, and also compared cyclists in different cycling environments (on and off road at varying distances). It was a very comprehensive and well produced piece of work, and managed to make sense of a broad array of complex data.
Emerging Researcher in Geography
Dr Gregory Breetzke
Graduate Research Supervision
Simon Kingham attracts postgraduate students to work with him because of his open, positive approach, his excellent connections with external agencies that provide both research issues and often scholarship, and his enthusiasm for the research and the individuals in all cases. The striking thing about his profile of supervision is that the students are of high, and often excellent quality, they are all making a contribution after completion in terms of applying their research outside the academy, or in the case of a number of the PhD students, developing it within.
Best Doctoral Thesis
Dr Simon Allan
Dr Allan completed his doctorate at the University of Canterbury on the geomorphic hazards associated with glacial change, Aoraki/Mount Cook region. The thesis is a ground-breaking investigation of mountain hazards in the context of climatic change, forming, in the words of the overseas examiner ‘the most complete and integrative ‘most complete and integrative glacial hazard assessment study’ he was aware of. It makes two internationally significant contributions: revealing the possible links between the spatial and temporal variability of rock temperatures with degrading permafrost and rock mass instability, and a comprehensive modelling of permafrost distribution in a New Zealand alpine setting.
Excellence in Graduate Supervision
Professor Harvey Perkins, Faculty of Environment, Society and Design, Lincoln University
Excellence in Teaching
Professor Chris Kissling, Faculty of Environment, Society and Design, Lincoln University
Excellence in Teaching
Dr Warwick Murray, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington
Best Doctoral Thesis
Dr Eugene Rees, School of Geography, Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland
George Perry, School of Geography and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland
Excellence in Teaching
Juliana Mansvelt, School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University
Best PhD Thesis
John Barker, School of Geography and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland
Best Masters Thesis
Julie King (nee Knauf), Institute of Geography, School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University
Excellence in Teaching
Regina Scheyvens, School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University