Ahunuku Māori Summer Research Scholarship

Study area(s): Science
Scholarship level: Master's by coursework; Honours; Returning students
Closing date(s): 18 September 2023
Award for: Māori
Value: $8,000


The Ahunuku Māori Summer Research Scholarship 2023-2024 is available through GNS Science, Te Pū Ao over the summer.

Selected scholars are expected to contribute a minimum of 400 hours to the project between November 2023 and February 2024. All projects must be completed by the start of Trimester 1, 2024.

Each scholarship will have a value of $8,000, paid in four equal instalments.

Eligibility and conditions

  • Applicants must be Māori, or of Māori descent.
  • Applicants will be selected on the basis of academic merit, expertise in the research area, and recommendations from GNS staff associated with the project.
  • Applicants must have completed at least two years of their undergraduate degree and are currently enrolled at any Australian or New Zealand University in an undergraduate, Honours, or first year of a Masters' degree.
  • Selected applicants must comply with the standard Summer Research Scholarship conditions.
  • Students apply through the Summer Research Scholarship application.

Students enrolled in a PhD or Masters by Thesis programs are not eligible.

Application process

Applications for Ahunuku Māori Summer Scholarships open on 4 September 2023 and close 4.30pm, 18 September 2023 (New Zealand time zone).

To apply for any of the following projects, an online application must be submitted by 4.30 pm on the closing date. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted. Any required supporting documentation must also be received by 4.30 pm on the closing date in order for the application to be considered.

When applying, please note the corresponding scholarship code for each project.

Investigating a pre-1840 CE fatal? landslide at White Rock, Wairarapa
  • Project Code: 900
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisor: Dr. Robert Langridge

An MBIE Smart Idea project awarded to Rob Langridge requires an Ahunuku student for the summer of 2023-24. The project has overarching goals to understand the age and origin of very large landslides in the Wairarapa and their link to active faults and earthquake triggers. The project has a strong Vision Mātauranga component around engagement with local iwi on historical landslides including the fatal 1855 Hidden Lakes landslide that occurred north of Masterton. A GNS report by Bruce & McSaveney (2021) alludes to another fatal pre-1840 landslide at White Rock, Wairarapa, that may have taken 30 lives (GNS Report 2021/138). Data regarding this event lives in the National Archives Library, Wellington as notes by K. Cairns.

We hope the students work will shed more light on this pre-1840 CE landslide event. This event could have great meaning for mana whenua in the Wairarapa, while also providing insight into past ground motions from near-coastal earthquake sources. The student will work with the project team including researchers from GNS and the University of Canterbury, and with iwi from Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Ngāti Kahungunu o Wairarapa. This project has potential for rich and challenging outcomes bridging mātauranga Māori and geoscience. The ideal student would have the following:

  • University Year 2 or 3, with papers in areas: history, archaeology, earth science, Māori studies
  • basic research skills, Word Processing
  • non-essential but useful – GIS, Graphics, Te Reo, Tikanga.

GNS has research resources to support an Ahunuku student including a workspace, computer resources, internet, library etc. The student will sit within the Paleoseismology Team, who form a strong unit at GNS. Rob Langridge will be the primary contact at GNS.

This project may particularly suit a student of Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Ngāti Kahungunu o Wairarapa descent, but this is not essential.

Climate change related risks:values, and ecosystem services
  • Project Code: 901
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisors: Annet Forkink, Geogia Grant, Mereana Wilson-Rooy

To work alongside Annet Forkink (environmental scientist and planner), Georgia Grant (sedimentologist), and Xuemei Tang (planner) to investigate ecosystem services framework and explore ways that recognise and identify linkages between mātauranga-a-iwi, a Māori view of ecosystems and western ecosystem services approaches for the Northland region.

This research will require the student to be able to engage with and participate in Naumai, Te Kowhai, and/or Parirau Marae communities and interview, hui, korero about ecosystem services that their understanding and use in Northland. Participation by the scholar will provide a better understanding of community values and needs connected to the Kaipara Harbour.

Post a literature review and hui and with supervisor guidance, the scholar will explore how GNS’s current research activities may extend past Northland to other rohe.  We welcome applicants from various backgrounds, especially Māori with Maori studies, social science, environmental science, urban planning, education, and political science. We encourage people with relevant life experiences to apply. The applicant should feel comfortable talking to a wide range of stakeholders, including community members, whānau, and scientists.

This project benefits a scholar who is interested in Māori studies, environmental science, urban planning, education, and political science particularly with regard to climate change and earth science. This is an opportunity to consider mātauranga-based approaches.

Deciphering ways to detect whenua (landscape) change over time
  • Project Code: 902
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisor: Katie Jones

Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the most dynamic landmasses worldwide. It is constantly changing due to the earth systems processes that shape the landforms on the surface. Landscape Evolution Modelling (LEM) can be used as a tool to understand how landscapes change over time with wide-reaching implications for natural hazards, climate change, groundwater, and carbon and coastal process research. However, for models to be beneficial they must reasonably replicate the processes which shape our landscape. To ensure this, models should be evaluated against what is observed across different landscapes. This project aims to generate a set of observations which can be used to better understand the landscape being modelled. With appropriate supervision, the scholar’s role will be to carry out a review of existing literature and information relating to geomorphic processes and landscape change in and around the study areas. This includes a geospatial desktop analysis of landscape change over the last ~100 years. The scholar will be part of a wider team working within an active research project (Landscape Evolution Modelling SDF), with the opportunity to connect others across Te Pῡ Ao - GNS.

Ideally second/third-year undergraduate with a background in earth sciences or Māori studies with an interest in mapping whenua. Prior experience of reviewing literature and handling digital graphics and maps is an advantage, as is a scholar who can work independently and has strong communication skills. This project is open to all candidates regardless of their geospatial skill level. Project activities and milestones can be adjusted if the successful candidate is a beginner to ArcGIS/QGIS.

This project will provide the successful candidate with on-the-job experience of working as part of a science research team based at GNS. The scholar will learn how to search for and use available datasets, and then apply this knowledge to better understand how natural hazard events shape our landscape. Being a valued part of the research team, the Ahunuku scholar would help to shape how we approach, analysis and communicate our science.

The scholar will be introduced to and work alongside several staff at Avalon, with at least weekly catch-up sessions to ensure needs are met and any challenges with the work are acknowledged and dealt with. Participation in a summer outreach programme will be supported and include other staff members the scholar will be working with.

How data resolution shapes tsumani risk estimations for underwater landslides
  • Project Code: 903
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisor: Jess Hillman

Underwater landslides are known to cause tsunami, posing a possible hazard to coastal communities. In 2020 an AUV was used to map a submarine landslide on the Pegasus Canyon in very high resolution (1 m). This landslide was previously thought to have happened recently; however, these data revealed that the landslide is blanketed by a thick layer of sediment. This means that when calculating the volume of the landslide, a key factor in working out the potential tsunami risk, the volume would be significantly under-estimated. Using this unique, high-resolution data we can work out how much the resolution of the seafloor mapping data affects the volume assessment, and therefore what impact this has on the calculated tsunami risk of underwater landslides. With over 2,200 underwater landslides identified on the seafloor along the Hikurangi Margin, could the risk of a tsunami be much higher than we thought? This project will use several marine geophysical datasets to map out this landslide in detail, working with scientists at GNS and NIWA to investigate what this might mean for hazards posed by these seafloor events. The student will spend time working at both GNS and NIWA, interacting with scientists from across a range of disciplines (marine geology, geophysics, hazards and tsunami), under the support of the SDF Land to Sea project. The student will have the opportunity to work both with scientists and independently, undertaking set tasks and pursuing areas of the research that they find interesting. The project can be somewhat flexible, allowing the student to adapt the work dependent on their skillsets and areas of interest.

Understanding drivers of environmental change in north Taranaki estuaries
  • Project Code: 904
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisor: Malcolm Arnot

This Ahunuku Scholarship project sits within the ‘Integrated Coastal Dynamics’ research project (led by Kyle Bland), part of GNS’ ‘Global Change through Time’ (GCT) SSIF programme (led by Joe Prebble), which has a focus on supporting and developing innovative research that helps New Zealanders understand how interconnected environmental processes across our planet influence climate and environment in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Coastal Dynamics project has several geographic focus areas: Northland, Taranaki, Hauraki, West Coast. In Taranaki, research is aimed at characterising the mechanisms and drivers of coastal erosion and understanding potential human-induced and/or climate change impacts on the rates of sedimentation and environmental change within tidally influenced river mouth “estuaries”, northern Taranaki. In response to iwi and council interests, a series of sediment cores have recently been acquired in the Urenui and Mimitangatua estuaries in north Taranaki to assess environmental changes in those systems. This Ahunuku project will work with the Taranaki workstream team to sub-sample and analyze material taken from that core material and develop media to present back to the project’s iwi and council partners. The Ahunuku Scholar’s project will be Lower Hutt based, working at our Gracefield laboratories and Avalon office, assisting with sediment core sampling and analysis, data processing, and presentation. We will make every effort to provide an opportunity to participate in further fieldwork, and stakeholder and iwi engagement activities.

*We are seeking a student with an interest in environmental change, sedimentology research, laboratory work and analysis, and possibly fieldwork. University year level is flexible, and the tasks can be tailored to the level of experience. There is opportunity for discrete research tasks if a candidate is interested in this. Some knowledge of sedimentology, sedimentary processes, or ecosystems/ecology would be useful.

*This project is undertaken in conjunction with, and in the rōhe of, Te Runanga o Ngāti Mutunga; ideally, the applicant has whakapapa to Ngāti Mutunga, but is not essential.

*The ability for the student to be able to travel between the Gracefield and Avalon sites, without reliance on GNS staff, would be useful.

The student will gain connections to large, successful, and well-defined multi-disciplinary environmental research projects, within a SSIF research programme (GCT) that has a long-standing track record of supporting Māori students.  The project will provide exposure to state-of-the-art environmental change research, working with a great team (including other visiting students). The student will also learn practical hands-on skills in sample preparation and analysis, learn how to integrate datasets from different science disciplines, and how to report those data back to research partners and end-users.

The student will spend time working at both GNS and NIWA, interacting with scientists from across a range of disciplines (marine geology, geophysics, hazards and tsunami), under the support of the SDF Land to Sea project. The student will have the opportunity to work both with scientists and independently, undertaking set tasks and pursuing areas of the research that they find interesting. The project can be somewhat flexible, allowing the student to adapt the work dependent on their skillsets and areas of interest.

GEONET - Operation Assistants for the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre
  • Project Code: 905
  • VUW Supervisor: Meegan Hall
  • GNS Supervisors: Andriy Legenkyy, Clinton Zirk

GEONET are seeking up to 5 Operational Assistants to help enhance the operational efficiency and team dynamics within the National Geohazard Operations Centre. The project will focus on three distinct milestones: Operational Assistant Role BAU and during Response, multi-agencies collaboration during emergency and working on NGMC retrospective project.

Throughout the project, emphasis will be placed on soft and personal skills. Effective communication skills, including the ability to engage in different conversations, listen empathetically, and move discussions towards productive outcomes, are crucial for this role. The NGMC Team is looking for ways to share cultural experiences, with language exchange sessions to foster cross-cultural communication and understanding how to better engage with Maori communities to promote the work we do. The GEONET Team can take up to 5 summer internships for the 2023-24 summer who will be a part of the centre's monitoring teams. The indicative internship is set out as follows:

Week 1-4: Orientation and Fundamentals. – NGMC already has comprehensive training program for the new members of the centre to reach OA status. During this time he will be introduced to the OA program, organization's operational structure and key personnel, supported by Education coordinator and personnel on shift

Week 5–8: Python Programming and Data Analysis – we have existing working scripts library and the team working on it. Scholar will be a part of coding team helping them to code and work on the projects. His main project would be creating retrospective statistics based on the Geonet data and presenting it in the different formats.

Week 9–12: Project Development and Final Presentation. NGMC Shift leaders and Relief Shift leaders will collaborate closely with the scholar on during project, and coding team will guide the scholar in preparing final presentation showcasing their project and offer feedback. Plan will be adjusted based on the Ahunuku scholar's progress, preferences, and new challenges.


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