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).
  • Exceptional Services


A copy of the nomination criteria for the President's Awards can be downloaded here.


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.

Recipients 2021


President's Award for best Doctoral Thesis in Geography:

Dr Emaediong Uma (University of Otago), "Policy and Planning in urban and peri-urban agriculture: The Case of Uyo and Benin City, Southern Nigeria."

Dr Swati Shah (University of Otago), "Envisioning relational reproductive justice in surrogacy."


President's Award for best Master's Thesis in Geography:

Hamish Prince (University of Otago), "A climatology in New Zealand atmospheric rivers."

Elliott Serjeant (University of Auckland), "Responding to the weather indoors: Practices and experiences of tenants in damp housing on Waiheke Island."



President's Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography:


Dr Raven Cretney (Waikato University)

Dr Ashraful Alam (University of Otago)


Recipients 2020


President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis

Dr Linda Madden (Auckland), "Pet Names: A Critical Geography of Non-human Identity Construction in Auckland City"


President’s Award for Best Masters Thesis

Lisa Dowling (Victoria University of Wellington), "The Holocene glacial identity of Dart Glacier, New Zealand"


President’s Award for Graduate Research Supervision

Associate Professor Hamish Rennie (Lincoln) 


Recipients 2019


President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis

Dr Andrew Neverman (Massey) Quantifying bed stability: the missing tool for establishing mechanistic hydrological limits

Dr Amba J. Sepie (Canterbury) Tracing the Motherline: Earth Elders, Decolonising Worldview and Planetary Futurity


President’s Award for Best Masters Thesis

Ivor Heijnen (Lincoln) From Place-Response to Place Constructive Outdoor Education: A Case Study of the Port Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand


President’s Award for Emerging Research in Geography

Dr Gail Yvonne Adams-Hutcheson (Waikato) 

Dr Marc Tadaki (Cawthron Institute)

Dr Amanda Thomas (Victoria)


President’s Award for Research Collaboration

Dr Marcela Palomino-Schalscha (Victoria)

Professor Emeritus Harvey Perkins (University of Auckland) and Dr Mike Mackay (AgResearch)


Click here for citations for each of the 2019 President's Awards recipients

Recipients 2018


President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis

Dr Hayley Sparks (Auckland) for your exceptional thesis – entitled ‘Elite education and everyday encounters: Examining the multiple dimensions of privilege in young people’s lives’ - made significant and highly original theoretical and empirical contributions to human geography. The combination of innovative methodology and critical theories enabled the production of a highly sophisticated and important thesis about privilege, young people and educational spaces.


Dr Jerram Bateman (Otago) for your exceptional thesis – entitled ‘Rural livelihoods in Sierra Leoni: Longitudinal insights from Panguma and Kayima’ that made significant contributions theoretically and empirically. The articulation of key priorities and challenges for future development in Panguma and Kayima are insightful and the research has the potential to inform development initiatives within these communities, as well as shaping broader rural development policies in Sierra Leone.


President’s Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Tom Baker (Auckland) for your ability to quickly establish yourself as one of the leading new voices in policy and urban geography. We recognise your successes with research funding, supervision, and publishing, as well as your generous contributions to our scholarly networks.


President’s Award for Collaborative Research involving Geographers (in all educational settings)

Associate Professor Damian Collins (University of Alberta) and Professor Robin Kearns (Auckland) for a collaboration that began in the late 1990s at the University of Auckland when Damian was a masterate student and has continued to flourish despite being in different hemispheres. The hallmark of this collaboration has been a remarkable stream of initiatives responsive to Aotearoa New Zealand’s social, political, economic and cultural landscapes. Your enduring and productive research collaboration has been highly successful in advancing geographical scholarship.


President’s Award for Research Supervision

Associate Professor Sara Kindon (VUW) for your outstanding commitment to supervision, your careful attention to the particularities of each student, and your ability to facilitate student research within minority communities. The depth and breadth of your supervision experience shows an ethos of care towards students’ learning. The NZGS thanks you for developing sustained research relationships that enable students to conduct research alongside you, as well as ‘give back’ to their communities.



Recipients 2017

President's Awards for Best Master's Thesis

Kirsten Vavasour (University of Canterbury) 'More than a Band Aid: how the use of popular music helped a city recover after disaster'


President's Awards for Best Doctoral Thesis

Dr Gillian Elliott (University of Otago) 'Exploring nature as representation and young adults' conceptualisations of nature in the user-generated online world: Nature 2.0'

Dr Simon Vale (Massey University)


President's Awards for Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Kelly Dombroski (University of Canterbury)



Recipients 2016

President’s Award for Best Master’s Thesis

Kathryn Fleming (Victoria University of Wellington)

Anne Heins (University of Canterbury)



President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis

 Dr Tess Guiney (University of Otago)

 Dr Richard Selwyn Jones (Victoria University of Wellington)



President’s Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography

 Dr Christina R. Ergler (University of Otago)



President’s Award for Research Supervision

 Dr Sophie Bond (University of Otago)

 Associate Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett (University of Otago)


President’s Award for Teaching in Geography (in all educational settings)

 Dr Wokje Abrahamse (Victoria University of Wellington)



Recipients 2015


President’s Award for Best Doctoral Thesis

Dr Naomi Simmonds (The University of Waikato)


President’s Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Malcolm Campbell (University of Canterbury)


President’s Award for Best Master’s Thesis

Peter Bernard Gibson (University of Otago)

Daniel Nutsford (University of Canterbury)


President’s Award for Collaborative Research involving Geographers (in all educational settings) 2015

The GeoHealth Laboratory, Department of Geography at the University of Canterbury


President’s Award for Research Supervision

Dr Nicolas Cullen (University of Otago)

Professor Warwick Edward Murray (Victoria University of Wellington)


President’s Award for Teaching in Geography (in all educational settings)

Dr Heather Lois Purdie (University of Canterbury)


President’s Award for Exceptional Services (to the University of Canterbury)


Anna Petrie (Senior Administrator to the Geography Department, University of Canterbury)




Recipients 2014


Best PhD Thesis

Dr Thomas Etherington (The University of Auckland)


Dr Amanda Thomas (Victoria University of Wellington)


Best Master’s Thesis

Hayley Christine Spark (The University of Auckland)


Sam McLachlan (Otago University)


President’s Award for Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Alan John Gamlen (Victoria University of Wellington)


President’s Award for Exceptional Services (in recognition of contributions to the establishment of the postgraduate network)

This year, the Society’s Council has also discussed the excellent student contributions to the now flourishing Postgraduate Student Geography Network. There were six postgraduate students that have contributed a tremendous effort over the last four years to establish this network. In recognition of these exceptional services, Council decided to create an exceptional award:

Dr Gail Yvonne Adams-Hutcheson (Waikato University)

Gradon Diprose (Victoria University of Wellington)

Dr Marcela Palomino-Schalscha (Victoria University of Wellington)

Marc Tadaki (The University of Auckland)

Dr Amanda Thomas (Victoria University of Wellington)

Cherie Todd (Waikato University)




Recipients 2013



Best PhD Thesis

Dr Sara Kindon (University of Waikato)

“’Thinking-Through-Complicity’ with Te Iwi o Ngāti Hauiti: Towards a Critical Use of Participatory Video for Research”

Sara Kindon’s thesis was submitted in November 2011, and conferred in April 2012. It is entitled “’Thinking-Through-Complicity’ with Te Iwi o Ngāti Hauiti: Towards a Critical Use of Participatory Video for Research”. This thesis is about the need to work carefully, reflexively and critically when engaging in participatory research. It explores “the seductions and dangers of participatory video for research (PVR) involving indigenous Māori and Pākehā research partners”. Using a “hyper-self-reflexive approach” Sara critiques her own method of research and in the process makes a valuable contribution to re-politicising participatory geographies.

This thesis was a long time in gestation. The competing demands of family and work (Sara is Senior Lecturer at Victoria University) meant that it took Sara more than a decade to complete the dissertation. While this time-frame may not be ideal for most candidates in Sara’s case it provided a prolonged period for careful reflection on the nature of research – its processes, context, power relations and outcomes. Sara was able to grapple deeply and profoundly over a prolonged period with the personal, professional, political, methodological and conceptual challenges of research, especially participatory video research.

Professor Richard Howitt, overseas examiner, states: “To say that this thesis is a challenging work is an understatement. As a critical mediation on important methodological questions for the discipline of geography, it is a wise, provocative evocative and profound reflection”. Sara brings together a range of fields including participatory and development geographies, visual geographies, critical social geographies, qualitative methodologies, indigenous studies, postcolonial theory, psychoanalytic theory and auto-ethnography. One might expect such wide coverage of disparate literatures to result in a piece of work that does not hold together and yet it is highly coherent.

New Zealand examiner, Professor Regina Scheyvens notes one of the things she really appreciates about the thesis is “when Sara included feedback from Ngāti Hauiti research partners on an earlier draft of the chapter, thus explicitly showing where her reflections, interpretations and understandings did not accord with those of others who were intimately involved with the research”. This thesis ‘excavations’ of key moments, events, and processes is an excellent resource that will assist other researchers who also want to think beyond more superficial and rhetorical commitments to participatory methods. Professor Howitt comments: “I think the weaving together of these ideas of complicity into the hyper-self-reflexive excavation of one’s own practice is brilliantly executed in Kindon’s analysis. There is no self-indulgent re-invention at work here”. Sara convincingly argues that even thoughtful, well intentioned work (and she places her own at the top of the list) can end up reinforcing colonial, racist and sexist relations.

This thesis makes an important contribution to the discipline of geography. It encourages researchers to reflect carefully on their own practices and how we may be complicit in oppressive power relations. But perhaps even more importantly it offers a way forward.


Dr Clare Robertson (Massey University)

Clare Robertson was awarded her PhD in Geography in 2013 by Massey University. Clare’s doctoral research has made a significant contribution to geographic knowledge, both nationally and internationally within the field of glaciology. She has been the first to quantify the temporal evolution of ice-ramps extending from debris-covered, lake calving glaciers by making innovated use of sub-bathymetric sonar, coupled with high resolution GPS surveying. As such, her research provides the first extensive results of processes operating at the ice front below the water level that have hitherto been unavailable. Clare’s research focused on ice ramp development in the Mueller Glacier proglacial lake in particular and showed that evolution of subaqueous morphologies are driven by subaerial calving, subsequent subaqueous calving, and sedimentation. In addition to a detailed, high resolution temporal investigation at Mueller, calvin margins at Hooker, Tasman, Murchison, Classen, Grey, Maud and Godly glaciers were also examined to provide a wider geographic context from the region. This showed that glacier retreat and concurrent proglacial lake expansion were also found to vary significantly within a single mountain belt. Importantly this means that trends observed at one glacier cannot be used to infer response of another glacier in the same region.

Clare’s research has significantly improved our understanding of the controls and behaviour of ice ramps, which are critical to understand and more accurately predict rates of glacier retreat. Accordingly, her research has contributed valuable quantitative data on the contribution that subaqueous calving and melting makes to glacier mass loss.


Clare’s examiners commented that the thesis was “of a very high standard in terms of its academic depth, methodological rigour, experimental design, quality of analysis and presentation”, that it was “a comprehensive study” which makes “a significant contribution to the literature on New Zealand glaciers and on freshwater calving more widely”. Clare’s examiners included the leading international authority on freshwater calving, Professor Martin Kirkbride (Dundee), as well as the well renowned New Zealand glaciologist Dr. Trevor Chinn, so this is indeed high praise. Clare’s thesis therefore provides a highly significant contribution to geographic knowledge both in New Zealand and internationally, which is being communicated through a series of international journal articles currently in press, or published. These include a paper in the leading Glaciology Journal, Journal of Glaciology, published in 2012, and three journal articles waiting for publication.


Best Masterate

Jerram Bateman (University of Otago)

Jerram’s Master’s thesis is titled ‘Development through sport: The Indianisation of cricket and its potential for development’. The study focuses on the role of cricket in empowering young people in poor urban communities in India, notably in the city of Mumbai. Jerram spent two months undertaking field based research in India. His fieldwork was planned meticulously and he returned to Dunedin with an impressive portfolio of data.

The internal examiner commented on the thesis as followed; “One of the key strengths of this research is its articulation of the complex network of institutions, communities, individuals and corporations at the global levels that are involved in the use of cricket for development initiatives as well as the different complementary and conflicting interest, motivations and drives that encapsulate such projects … The dissertation demonstrates a mastery of a scholarly field, is intellectually insightful and rigorous in its analysis”.

The external examiner commented: “The presentation of the thesis is of a very high standard … In summary, this is an impressive piece of research reporting at Masters level. The research environment in which the candidate was operating was very challenging, but this has not prevented him from producing an excellent piece of work that meets all the criteria to a very high degree and merits a very strong grade”.


Laura McKim (Victoria University of Wellington)

Laura McKim’s Master’s thesis, on “Commuting without polluting. The economic geography of active transport in Aotearoa New Zealand” was passed in 2012. Her thesis explores the effect of rising affluence on the propensity of people to walk or cycle to work. The negative effect of income growth on active commuting is contrasted with the U shaped relationship apparent in cross-section (see Figure 1). While higher incomes do allow people to purchase motorised transport, they also allow workers to purchase dwellings closer to their work and this facilitates more active commuting. Far from continuing to fall with income, the greater ability to walk and cycle in more compact areas means active commuting rises with higher incomes.

The evidence of excellence of Laura’s thesis comes from her detailed analysis of the unit records of the national New Zealand Household Travel Survey. What sets her thesis apart from much previous analysis is that it is based on the analysis of ‘trip legs’ (individual travel segments by mode) rather than ‘trip chains’ or simply the main mode of transport used in the commute.

Following completion of courses in statistics and statistical software Stata, Laura undertook an impressive analysis of the degree to which commuters walked or cycled to work throughout New Zealand over the period 2003-2008. Her analysis was multivariate in nature. She found that the non-linear impact of income on trip leg mode was sustained even after controlling for the characteristics of commuters themselves (their age, hours of work, household type, partnership, holding a car licence) as well as context effects such as the season, day of the week and survey year in which the commuting took place. Further controls included settlement type and region.

This thesis impressed examiners and editors:

‘This is a thesis in an important area of policy and academic interest’ wrote Ralph Chapman, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences; ‘…it is impressive in the way it structures the study in an orderly way, draws conclusions from a creditable body of quantitative empirical work’. ‘The study makes a real contribution to the literature around active transport and should definitely be published’.

The second examiner, Professor Alistair Woodward, Head of School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, wrote ‘Overall, I found this an outstanding thesis. I was impressed by the clarity of the writing and the thoroughness of analysis … I believe this is distinction quality (A grade).’


Laura’s thesis also impressed the editor of the journal Regional Insights, published by the Regional Studies Association International, and her research will be published in volume 4, issue 1 under the title: ‘The economic geography of active transport: regional insights from New Zealand. A further submission with her supervisor is underway to Transport Geography. Laura will also present a paper from her thesis to the Ecological Economics and Institutional Dynamics Conference in Brussels in June 2013.


Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Christopher Gomez (University of Canterbury)

Since his arrival at Canterbury at the end of 2010 Chris has been extremely active in expanding his research into environmental processes and natural hazards which also forms a very important part of his teaching. His research is noteworthy for its global emphasis ranging from work in France, USA, Indonesia, Japan and more recently in New Zealand.

His research deals with environmental processes that act at different landscape scales, integrating physical and human geography, with an emphasis on hazardous earth-processes. Up to present Chris has been working mainly on the tsunamis of Sumatra (2004), Java (2006) and Tohoku (2011); on the volcanoes Semeru, Merapi and Merbabu in Indonesia, and on three volcanoes in Japan. More recently, he has also started to develop a portfolio on tsunamis and floodplain/estuarine processes in Canterbury, New Zealand. The work in these geographic different areas encompass research on sediment transfer for high-energy flows on terrestrial environments and the associated environmental hazards and he has also recently opened up his research to micro-biology in order to integrate the findings of the latter into his environmental research.

Chris is currently supervising seven PhD and two Master’s students, and has completed supervision for five Master’s students. He has published extensively in a large number of internationally recognised journals and contributed to several books, is actively involved in conferences and he can be seen regularly on the news.


Chris brings a strong inter-disciplinary focus to his research as well as extensive international collaboration.


Emerging Researcher in Geography

Dr Kevin Nolan (Victoria University of Wellington)

Kevin is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the Victoria University of Wellington working on topics ranging from anthropogenic impacts on coastal settings to climate and erosion feedbacks in mountain systems. He is also a member of the Physical Geography group in SGEES. He is knowledgeable, friendly, innovative and skilled at what he does. His area of expertise is geomorphology, with a theme of geochemistry, a discipline that seems to be under-represented in New Zealand. His work using cosmogenic nuclides in the Swiss Alps is very exciting. His PhD work, which was completed nearly five years ago, focused on the application of cosmogenic nuclides to determining landscape-wide weathering and erosion rates in the European Alps (Norton et al., 2008; 2010; 2011; Norton and von Blanckenburg, 2010). This work challenged long-held assumptions about the positive relationship between physical erosion on chemical weathering by determining landform-specific weathering and erosion rates. The precise dating allowed by the analysis of 10Be has opened up a wide range of possibilities in physical geography and paleoclimate studies world-wide, and has great potential in New Zealand.

Kevin has been an active member of the geomorphology community. During post-doctoral work at the University of Bern, he and his colleagues (including three PhD students whom Kevin co-supervised; M. Trauerstein, T. Bekaddour, S. Savi) combined traditional geomorphic mapping with new geochemical tracers and GIS analysis to quantify the impact of climate variability and erosion on sediment production and transport and landscape evolution. They, specifically, addressed the role of El Nino and precipitation on the western escarpment of the Andes (Abbuhl et al 2010; 2011) and the effect of precipitation gradients on the long-term landscape evolution of the Andes (Schlunegger et al., 2011; Norton and Schlunegger, 2011; Trauerstein et al., in press). The group also applied the same geomorphic tools to determine the factors that control sediment transport and river profile change in the European Alps (Norton et al. 2010; Schlunegger and Norton, 2013a; 2013b; Bekaddour et al., 2013; Savi et al., 2013). In the past five years, Kevin published 6 papers in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms and Geomorphology (ranked 10 and 13 of 44 in Physical Geography journals by Impact Factor in ISI) together with his students, and a further 14 papers on geomorphology and environmental themes in top international  science journals including Nature Communications.

Since joining the faculty at VUW in 2011, Kevin has begun organising a new research group, which currently consists of three PhD students (co-supervised with other Physical Geography staff) and two MSc students. Together with these students, he is working on adapting cosmogenic nuclide and GIS techniques for application in New Zealand settings.


Although he has been at the Victoria University of Wellington for less than two years, Kevin is already teaching a portfolio of courses: Applied Geomorphology, Advanced Geomorphology, and Field methods, plus contributions to several other geography courses. He is an excellent teacher who has good rapport with his students. Kevin completed his PhD just less than five years ago and already has an impressive publications list: over 20 published papers in several top journals, plus three book chapters.


Teaching in Geography

Dr Mairead de Roiste (Victoria University of Wellington)

Dr Mairéad de Róiste is the sole lecturer in charge of the GIS teaching programme at Victoria University of Wellington in a role that proved too taxing to many of her predecessors. By contrast Mairead has cheerfully and very efficiently not only run the programme she inherited but has grown it to where it is today: a second and third year course, a post grad introduction to GIS, a directed independent study and a 24 lecture programme delivered as part of the Masters in GIS run with Canterbury University and AUT.

Mairéad uses innovative teaching methods and her MGIS cartography and geovisualisation course is delivered as podcasts. Mairéad also contributes up to 10 hours of lectures and labs for four other courses and on top of this she is currently supervising three graduate students and runs a research group for students and research assistant under her supervision. And on top of that again, she presents to teachers and secondary school students in efforts which have helped her grow the GIS programme. Then there is the routine dealing with central computer services, ensuring labs function and all the additional organisational and technical paraphernalia associated with running a GIS programme. Thank goodness she has the able assistance of Andrew Rae, Technical GIS support.

Over and above the actual teaching, Mairéad has managed to collaborate with colleagues at Canterbury and AUT in setting up the Masters in GIS joint programme for which she is the VUW director. This was a major undertaking with relatively little support and a steep learning curve. That Mairéad pulled it off is of great credit to her.




Recipients 2012


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-prevention. The 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…..





Recipients 2011


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 Pattinson


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

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.



Recipients 2010


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.



Recipients 2009

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

Recipients 2007

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

Recipients, 2006

Emerging Researcher
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

Recipients, 2005

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

Normal 0 false false false EN-NZ X-NONE X-NONE Edward Challies was awarded his PhD in geography in 2010 by Victoria University

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