Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch
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Travel Grant Reports 2008


37th Congress of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM)
Honolulu, Hawaii, 2–6 February, 2008

Christina Starfinger
PhD student, Centre for Bioengineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury

Christina StarfingerThanks to the funding provided to me by the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand I was able to attend the 37th annual congress of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. The Congress offered very interesting educational sessions on a wide variety of relevant and timely topics that are not only related to my PhD research but also to other research in the Bioengineering Centre. I had the pleasure to listen to world-renowned speakers in the medical field as well as attend thought-provoking panel discussions, which gave me new insight in the clinical side of our research.

My PhD research title is “Patient-specific modelling of the cardiovascular system for diagnosis and therapy assistance in critical care”. We have developed a model for the cardiovascular system (CVS) and an identification method allowing us to identify the underlying patient-specific parameters for the model which can then be used to tune the CVS model to the particular patient condition and dysfunction. For example, a healthy person will have different parameter values than a critically ill patient with heart failure or in circulatory shock. These parameter values and more specifically, the trends over time can then be used to help assist clinical staff in diagnosis. For example, an increase in pulmonary vascular resistance indicates a problem in the pulmonary circulation, such as developing pulmonary embolism. Another goal of our research is to use the CVS model for predicting the future patient response towards interventions, for example predicting the patient response towards a change in adrenaline dose or towards a fluid bolus. These predictions can then be used to help in finding the best and optimal treatment and dose for each individual patient.

I presented a poster, which summarized the results we obtained for one of our porcine validation studies, identifying and predicting the hemodynamics during PEEP (positive end-expiratory pressure) and volume interventions. It was a good experience to talk to clinical staff who shared their thoughts and whose valuable comments provided me with new information and perspectives for my research.

Once more I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for providing me with a travel grant to support my attendance at this conference.


Student Conference on Conservation Science
Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK, 25–27 March 2008

Amy Marshall
PhD student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Amy MarshallI was delighted to receive a travel award from the Canterbury branch of the Royal Society to attend the Student Conference on Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge in the UK. This 3 day conference attracts some 300 delegates from over 50 countries around the world and is now in its 9th year. It brings together scientists from many varied areas of conservation science and I felt privileged and was thrilled to take part.

My work at the University of Canterbury focuses on conservation genetics, specialising in investigating genes involved in disease resistance and reproductive fitness in species of high conservation priority. The primary study species for my project is the threatened New Zealand (Hooker’s) sea lion, which despite protection efforts is still in decline and is known to have a high susceptibility to disease. By sequence analysis of genes underlying disease resistance in hundreds of individuals over a number of years, we hope to elucidate the association, if any exists, between genetic variation in these loci and individual resistance and susceptibility to disease. My work is among the first study to use a candidate gene approach to study the association between genetic variation and disease susceptibility and resistance in a population of an endangered species. Once complete, much of my studies approach and some of my data may be transferable to other endangered species in New Zealand and around the world.

Being able to attend an international conference at this early stage of my PhD was invaluable. I was able to meet with and share ideas with my peers, as well as, some eminent scientists from around the globe. Importantly, it enabled me to make contact with potential collaborators to further my work and promote the great science that is being undertaken at the University of Canterbury. New Zealand is seen to be a leader in conservation science and it was wonderful to go overseas and reinforce this perception and highlight our work. I presented my work in 3 poster sessions and was able to talk with well known scientists in the conservation genetics field, including Joseph Hoffman, who has published widely in this field. This was one of the most beneficial things I have done so far in my PhD; I received some interesting and helpful comments on my work and as a first year student this was of great use as I am able to consider these suggestions in the early stages of my research.

I’d like to sincerely thank the Canterbury branch of the Royal Society for giving me this valuable opportunity and I am pleased that I got to represent Canterbury in the UK!


8th Pacific Rim Conference on Stellar Astrophysics in Phuket, Thailand, May 5-9 2008

Robyn Woollands
MSc student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Robyn Woollands
From left to right: Dr. Lev Yungelson (Institute of Astronomy, Russia), Hana Schumacher (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Robyn Woollands (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) and Prof. Brian Warner (University of Cape Town, South Africa) at the Phuket FantaSea Theme Park.

The 8th Pacific Rim Conference on Stellar Astrophysics 2008 (PRCSA2008) was sponsored and hosted by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT), and the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology. This year the PRCSA was held in Phuket, Thailand, at the Merlin Beach Resort during 5–9 May 2008.

The PRCSA2008 focused on the new developments of the rapidly progressing science of stellar astrophysics. The topics discussed were as follows: star formation, novae and supernovae, compact objects, binary stars, cataclysmic variables and variable stars, binary and multiple systems, cataclysmic variables, stars and planetary companions, and star clusters and large scale survey. Over the five days 104 presentations in the form of talks and posters were presented by the 93 participants. The session on cataclysmic variables was most relevant to my current M.Sc thesis research (supervised by Assoc. Prof. Peter Cottrell), and is the one in which I presented a talk on R Coronae Borealis stars in the Magellanic Clouds (two irregular satellite galaxies orbiting our Milky Way Galaxy). I received useful feedback from a number of the attendees.

Several social events were organised during the conference, including the conference dinner and attending the Phuket FantaSea Show, both of which were held at the Phuket FantaSea Theme Park. Other events included sight-seeing in Phuket town, visiting Wat Chalong (Buddhist temple) and a cashew nut factory where we were able to sample a variety of flavoured cashew nuts and taste cashew nut juice!

Attending the PRCSA2008 was an excellent opportunity to meet new people, reconnect with old friends (some of whom are pictured below) and learn more about the different fields of astronomical research being done around the world. Presenting a talk at the PRCSA2008 gave the other participants an opportunity to see what type of astronomical work we are doing in New Zealand using the astronomical facilities run by the University of Canterbury at Mount John University Observatory. My talk also revealed the strong and essential collaborations we have with the SAAO (Southern African Astronomical Observatory) and SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), as well as the OGLE team (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) which are important for future astronomical work in New Zealand. I am grateful for the funding I received from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s, Canterbury Branch, which contributed to covering my travel expenses to this informative and interesting conference.

8th Pacific Rim Conference on Stellar Astrophysics in Phuket, Thailand, May 5-9 2008

Hana Schumacher
MSc student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Hana Schumacher
A few attendees of PRCSA 2008.
From left Hana Schumacher (me), University of Canterbury, NZ; Prof. Edward Guinan, Villanova University, USA; Dr Hakim L. Malasan Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia; Robyn Woollands, University of Canterbury, NZ; Siramas Komonjinda University of Canterbury, NZ.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the 8th Pacific Rim Conference on Stellar Astrophysics in Phuket, Thailand held from May 5–9. This was made possible by the very generous travel award I received from the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Being my first time in Asia, the journey was met with excitement and a bit of nerves as I came to terms with the fact that I would be presenting work I had done in order to complete my MSc Thesis earlier this year. With the first step out of the impressive Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok I was engulfed in a mass of very warm air despite the time being near midnight. This was a sharp contrast to the 10°C autumnal Christchurch I had left behind. From that first step, I knew this trip would be an adventure to remember.

It was my first international astronomy conference having completed my MSc in Astronomy in February this year. The conference venue was the beautiful, semi-isolated Merlin Beach Resort Hotel on Phuket island. The scene was set for some serious thoughts towards the starry skies while white sandy beaches and tropical storms surrounded us. From the opening ceremony and proceeding presentations I realised this conference would be very beneficial to me.

My oral presentation was scheduled for the third day so I had two days of soaking up people’s techniques and knowledge before embarking on the stage myself. I presented material on an aspect of my thesis which was the analysis of the eclipsing binary V752 Centauri.

This binary system is a W Ursae Majoris system. This means the two starts are actually in contact with each other and share a common envelope of outer stellar material. This ensures their orbital periods are very fast (typically < 0.5 days), and they have a circular synchronous rotation, where their orbital period is the same as their rotational period.

I had observed this target using the facilities at Mt John University Observatory in Tekapo. With the high resolution spectrograph HERCULES, spectra of V752 Cen were obtained. These spectra revealed a previously unseen characteristic in the spectrum and after further investigation it was concluded that the contributor of this characteristic was another star. The likely configuration of the V752 Centauri system is actually a quadruple system consisting of two binary systems orbiting about a common centre of mass.

My presentation was relevant to the conference topic of stellar astrophysics. The topic of binary stars was covered in depth throughout the conference with many leading academics presenting their research interests. There were many opportunities throughout the conference for me to meet leaders in my specific field and there were many familiar names which I had referenced in my thesis. Discussing my research with such people was very beneficial and hearing their insights into the world of astronomy was very rewarding.

The social outings organised were very enjoyable and included a tour around the Phuket island and a very entertaining dinner and show at Phuket’s famous FantaSea animal and leisure park.

The chance for me to meet and interact with so many renowned astronomers was very beneficial to me at this stage of my astronomical career. My attendance at the 8th PRCSA conference was made possible by the generous travel award the Canterbury of the Royal Society of New Zealand for which I offer my sincere thanks.

50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Rheumatology Association in Adelaide, 17–23 May 2008

Philip Drennan
4th Year MBChB, Departmanet of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Christchurch hospital, University of Otago Christchurch

Philip DrennanI recently had the privilege of attending the 50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Rheumatology Association in Adelaide. The primary reason for my attendance at this meeting was to present a poster of the results of a summer project which I completed at the University Of Otago Christchurch School Of Medicine, between November 2007 and January 2008.

The research that I presented concerned patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I investigated the effect of RA disease activity on blood concentrations of a cardiac protein called B-type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP). BNP is a relatively recently discovered protein that is measured clinically to indicate heart muscle dysfunction. However, the behaviour of this protein in a number of physiological and pathological states is not yet fully understood. My project therefore aimed to increase our understanding into how BNP is affected by the inflammatory process that occurs in patients with RA. The ultimate goal is to increase the usefulness of BNP as a diagnostic, prognostic, and risk indicator in a wider range of patients, especially those with inflammatory conditions such as RA.

The presentation at the conference involved attendance at a poster session, at which I spoke to other presenters and conference attendees about the topic. It was an invaluable experience for me to gain experience in presenting research to Rheumatology health professionals with a range of research interests, and to gain an insight into the state of Rheumatology and Immunology research in Australasia and further afield. This conference gave me an opportunity to experience the world of research, a vital aspect of medicine which is not often emphasised to medical students.

This trip would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the RSNZ Canterbury Branch, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank the society for their support. Thanks for support of the research project and conference attendance must also go to Arthritis New Zealand, the Australian Rheumatology Association, and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.


Endocrine Society Conference, San Francisco, California, USA, 15–18 June 2008

Bryony McNeill
PhD student, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lincoln University

Bryony McNeillThanks to the support of a Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch travel grant I had the opportunity to attend the Endocrine Society meeting in San Francisco in June this year. This conference was attended by over 7000 scientists and is a leading forum for the exchange of ideas in the field of endocrinology.

I am currently in the second year of a PhD at Lincoln University and at the conference I presented the first year of this research, a study of C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) and pregnancy in sheep and deer, in the form of a poster. In this study we measured circulating CNP concentrations, which are generally very low in healthy adult animals, throughout the course of gestation in pregnant ewes and hinds and found the levels to be extremely high and identified the placenta as a likely source. The poster session was well attended and I was able to talk about my research with other scientists and answer their questions. The chance to get feedback from international researchers was extremely valuable.

As well as presenting my own work, I attended many of the conference sessions and found them to be very informative. Due to the large number of scientists at the conference, there were several sessions running concurrently and there was always something of interest to attend, and several talks which were highly relevant to my particular research interests. The endocrine society also organised a number of trainee workshops, which were designed to give students advice on grant writing, setting up a laboratory and provide information on post-doctoral opportunities available to endocrinology graduates. These workshops were extremely valuable and provided a great opportunity to meet other students.

While in California I had a chance to visit the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California (Davis campus). At the laboratory I met some of the scientists and students and learnt about their research, and had a tour around their campus which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch for providing me with the generous support to attend the conference. It was a highly worthwhile experience.

The Joint 27th Biennial Australian Society of Animal Production and 68th New Zealand Society of Animal Production conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 24–27 June 2008

Othusitse Ricky Madibela
PhD student, Agriculture and Life Science Division, Lincoln University

I had the opportunity to attend the above mentioned conference courtesy of Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch and Lincoln University who co-funded my travel expense to present the results of part of my PhD research. The title of my paper was ‘High crude protein in autumn pasture does not impair reproductive performance in sheep’. I am grateful for the funding.

Though this trip gave me the opportunity to present my research, the highlight of the conference for me was to interact and do some networking with fellow scientists for future exchange of ideas and possible collaboration. Another thrill was to meet some renowned scientists whom I came across their work when I was researching for my PhD. I was able to exchange contacts with some scientists from South Africa and Australia.

Brisbane was warm and sunny, just like my home country, Botswana, at some stages even hot and I enjoyed the weather, a big contrast from Christchurch.

During the conference it was the plenary sessions which I found inspiring. And the topics were diverse, ranging from traditional investigative methodology to high tech tools like the use of meta-genomics techniques. In addition, discussions explored the existence of food types for the future, using available science information and techniques to add value to farm food and come up with what may be termed "smart foods". Climate change and the environment also took a centre stage of these discussions.

It was at these plenary sessions that I was inspired to think about what would be my role in my institution back home, that is, looking beyond attainment of a PhD. I found myself posing these questions to myself;

  1. Given that local breeds in Botswana survived in extreme heat and high prevalent disease pastoral-environment for hundreds of years, what would be their response and role under a globally warmed environment?
  2. What would be the profitability of local small breeds in terms of efficiency and their impact to the environment (Environmental footprint)?
  3. How could agriculture improve and contribute to liveability of cities and communities, not only in the provision of food but also in contributing to a desirable and clean environment?
  4. With the surge of global food prices, how can science contribute to the so called “subsistence farming” to allow communities to produce their own food and reduce reliance on global food markets.

These questions were somehow premised from my research in which rich protein diet from pastoral feeding had no detrimental effect on reproduction of livestock, contrary to research from USA and UK where hand feeding of high protein diets was found to compromise embryo development. This may be pointing to the fact that, to achieve normal reproduction, achieve tolerance to disease and parasites, animals may need to be allowed to perform under environments mimicking as close as possible the natural environment. And a pastoral system is the closest of such environment that agriculture can provide.

Having observed the excellent work done by both Australian and New Zealand societies to organize this conference I was left toying with the idea of resuscitating the non-functioning Botswana Society of Animal Production when I get back home. During the field trip we visited the University of Queensland research farm and the dairy, where we were shown some interesting facilities for nutritional studies. A visit to an on-farm research showed how farmers corporate with scientists for the advancement of science. Other non-formal activities included the conference dinner and the BBQ which were both enjoyable.

Anaerobe 2008, The 9th Biennial Congress of the Anaerobe Society of the Americas, Long Beach, California 24–27 June, 2008

Grant Bennett
PhD Agriculture and Life Sciences Division, Lincoln University

I recently attended Anaerobe 2008, a conference held at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach, California where I presented a poster; “The role of Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum in footrot in New Zealand”. Not only did this allow me to present some of the results from my thesis to fellow anaerobic microbiologists, but I was also able to attend and actively participate in the pre-conference workshops run by the Anaerobe Society of the Americas (ASA).

Pre-conference workshops: Before Anaerobe 2008 started, a series of workshops was held on culturing and identifying anaerobic bacteria. I attended these with Prof Bill Fales (University of Missouri-Columbia), who published some of the first Fusobacterium necrophorum papers and who I had met by chance the previous day. These workshops were primarily run by Dianne Citron (Alden Research Laboratory) and Mike Cox (Anaerobe Systems) and included some extremely useful unpublished data on how and why some anaerobes suffer oxygen damage, as well as some techniques that may be useful in avoiding this damage.

Conference: The Anaerobe 2008 conference was a general anaerobic microbiology meeting attended by several hundred delegates. It focused on Clostridium difficile, an emerging pathogen that has rapidly spread through out European and North American hospitals in the last 10 years. A range of other topics were covered, from using Clostridium novyi spores as anti-tumour agents to formalised debate-style presentations about the use of pro-biotics. Other highlights included Dr J.S. Bakken’s work on faecal transplantation to treat re-occurring chronic Clostridium difficile gut infections. Dr H. Simhan drew some striking links between the risk of bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy and the parent’s genetic background. While Dr S.M. Finegold presented evidence that suggests that some forms of autism may actually be an infectious disease.

The poster I presented was well received with approximately 30 delegates asking questions and discussing the ramifications of the poster. This resulted in a request to publish the poster results in “Anaerobe”, the Anaerobe Society’s journal. I actively participated in the Anaerobe Societies general meeting, where the future of the Anaerobe journal was discussed and I was able to bring a footrot centric perspective to the meeting on where, how and why footrot research is published.

Over all, I made numerous contacts and felt I was welcomed into the anaerobe community (special mention to Prof Bill Fales, Dr Haydee Dabritz from the Californian Department of Health, Dianne Citron, Bill Carlson and Ted Franks from Hardy Diagnostics). My attendance at Anaerobe 2008 has also inspired me to write an application to the Marsden fund on autism, started a feasibility study for improving the selectiveness of the MolysisTM bacterial DNA extraction kit and allowed me access to an invaluable collection of distilled research which will continue to be a great resource during the write up of my thesis.

I would like to thank the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society and its patrons for their support in attending the Anaerobe 2008 conference.


13th International Symposium on Flow Visualisation, Nice, France, 1–4 July 2008 and the 14th International Symposium on Applications of Laser Techniques to Fluid Mechanics, Lisbon, Portugal, 7–10, July 2008

Callum Spence
PhD student, Centre for Bioengineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury

Callum SpenceThe prestige of participating in the 13ISFV and 14ISALTFM conferences and the amazing settings of Nice and Lisbon made for a fantastic experience in Europe. I am sincerely grateful to the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for supporting me on what was my first travel out of Australasia and a steep learning curve in more ways than one. The close proximity in both time and location of these two renowned conferences provided the unique opportunity to attend both.

Each conference discussed new ideas on the development of advanced techniques for laser flow measurement and on the latest applications. The laser based flow measurement technique, Particle Image Velocimetry that I am using to measure the fluid flow in the respiratory tract is the first system of its type in New Zealand and knowledge gained from these conferences will assist its development. My presentation in Nice included my latest results of the flow velocity and patterns within the human nasal cavity. I conducted measurements in a physiologically accurate transparent model of the nasal cavity geometry, which I constructed from CT scan data.
It was rewarding to meet with international researchers working in the same field and the networks built will undoubtedly be important as my research and career progress. My trip also included visits to potential universities for postdoctoral study, namely the Von Karman Institute for fluid dynamics in Brussels, Belgium and the RWTH in Aachen, Germany. After completing post-doctoral studies overseas I would like to pursue a career as a lecturer.

1st International Ice Sheet Modelling Workshop and SCAR Conference, St Petersburg, Russia 5–11 July, 2008

David John Hood
Masters Student, Gateway Antarctica and The School of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury

David HoodI was fortunate to receive funding from several sources including the Royal Society, Canterbury Branch to attend the Ice Sheet Modelling Workshop and SCAR Conference held in St Petersburg, Russia. I am very grateful to the Royal Society for their support in making my dream possible.

As part of a team of Antarctic researchers I completed an Antarctic field season studying the dynamics of the Darwin Hatherton glacier system. The field work involved glacial geopmorph mapping and the collection of an impressive suite of samples we have since used for cosmogenic age dating of past ice retreat. My research, as part of my masters, focuses on the impact of global climate change, and the past influence it has had on the East Antarctic Ice sheet (EAIS). The Darwin and Hatherton glacier system drains the EAIS through the Central Transantarctic Mountains. My field area is located at Lake Wellman, within the Darwin Hatherton glacial system. This site is significant in studying the effect of past climate fluctuations on the EAIS as it displays a complete record with good preservation of glacial moraines. The occurrence of such well preserved moraines along side the east-flowing outlet glaciers provides an excellent opportunity to study the effect of past climate change on the EAIS.

The Workshop and Conference were important to my research providing an excellent opportunity to interact with and learn from experts in global climate science and glacial research. As part of the 2008 International Polar Year, the ice sheet modelling workshop involved learning techniques for understanding and quantifying ice sheet movement in Antarctica. The workshop began with presentations by modellers; we then broke into smaller discussion groups to deal with some key problem questions. Such as: Will climate change lead to irreversible ice sheet response? Does rapid change lead to large final change? Are observed changes natural variability, or a response to or recent warming? The SCAR Conference was host to some of the world's top glaciologists presenting their research from Antarctica. The conference began with plenary lectures and the standard of presentation was high with some very interesting and funny speakers. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions on Past, Present and future climate change at the pole and this was most relevant to my research. The session on deep sub-ice water, hydrological system and ice sheet interactions was also very good to attend.

Presenting a poster at this international symposium made it possible to receive immediate feedback on my work from researchers in similar fields. My poster received a lot of interest which lead into good discussion. This was an excellent opportunity to mix with and learn from experts from around the world and make valuable contacts to assist with future work.

Attending the Workshop and Conference was an excellent learning experience adding great value to my Masters Degree. I would like to sincerely thank the Royal Society for their financial support in my attendance to this international symposium and making my dream into a reality.

The XIXth International Congress on Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis and the XXth International Fibrinogen Workshop, Vienna, Austria, 6–10 July 2008

Ryan Davis
PhD student, Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch

In early July I left for Europe to attend the International Congress on Fibrinolysis and Proteolysis. This conference was attended by over 300 delegates from more than 20 countries. Scientific sessions included mechanisms of fibrinolysis, pathological fibrinolysis, workshops on assays and s their pitfalls. A poster presentation on the integrity of trimolecular fibrin junctions was of particular interest and I discussed the findings at length with the author and other researchers. The Wyeth-IFP prize lecture was given by Frank Castllino, who recounted 40 years of research into the haemostatic system.

Following the meeting in Vienna I travelled south by train through the Austrian countryside to attend a second conference in Venice, Italy. The International Fibrinogen Workshop was held on the Island of San Servolo in the Venetian lagoon from the 10th until the 13th of July. The conference was attended by over 200 delegates including a handful of researchers who have been involved in fibrinogen research for over 30 years. The conference included a large variety of research presentations with a strong representation of biophysical and biotechnological research. Of extreme interest were presentations by representatives from the commercial sponsors of the conference, showcasing current and prospective commercial avenues that have arisen from basic fibrinogen research.

I was privileged to present some of my research findings at this conference, giving a presentation entitled, “A deep intronic mutation creating a consensus exonic splicing enhancer motif leads to aberrant mRNA splicing and afibrinogemia that can be corrected in vitro with antisense oligonucleotides”. Briefly, the talk outlined the characterisation of a seemingly benign mutation in a patient who presented with paradoxical thrombosis and typical bleeding in the absence of the blood clotting protein fibrinogen. The mutation was found to cause the inclusion of an aberrant piece of RNA which results in a lack of protein production. Further investigation using antisense gene therapy identified a potential therapeutic strategy. My presentation was well received and I was approached by several investigators afterwards interested in discussing my findings further.

I was fortunate enough to sample the cuisine and culture of Austria and Italy and the sights of Vienna, Venice and Rome. It was both an entertaining and enlightening trip which has provided me the opportunity to strengthen collaborative ties and to gain up to date information on my area of research interest. This will prove invaluable for the preparation of my thesis as my PhD studies in the Molecular Pathology laboratory at the Christchurch School of Medicine are coming to an end. I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury branch, for their generous travel grant award that helped me to attend these conferences.

Annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) Marseille, France in 6–10 July 2008

Leonard Forgan
PhD student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Leonard Forgan
I presented core work from my PhD thesis on skeletal muscle metabolism. Having to travel to Europe meant that the RSNZ Canterbury branch funding really helped to meet my costs.

The south coast of France in summer has to be one of the best locations for a conference. Luckily for me this years SEB meeting was just so situated, being based at the Palais des Congres at the Parc Chanot in Marseille, an ancient port city on the Mediterranean coast. After arriving quite bewildered after over 36 hours of travel and transit, I was greeted by a tropical 30 ºC. This was much welcomed as back home in Christchurch we had just experienced some of the worst snow storms in recent memory. I quickly became oriented with the city and took in some of the sights before the conference began. Being my first trip to Europe, it was all very different and exciting.

The conference is one of the top meetings in the world for comparative physiology and consequently many of the top scientists in my field were in attendance. This then was a great opportunity for me to meet many of the authors of the papers that I regularly find myself reading. After registering, I put my poster up and planned my week. The first couple of days I attended many of the talks in the general animal biology sessions. On the next day I attended all of my session, physiological strategies to optimise oxygen delivery, and presented my poster on the relationship between oxygen availability and utilization in vertebrate myocytes in the evening poster session. The session was very well attended and I received valuable feedback from many relevant researchers. The session on the next day, radical species, mitochondria and cardiac function was also very relevant to my work. While there, I got the opportunity to discuss my work with potential collaborators and others with similar research interests. I believe I made very important contacts that will undoubtedly be important as my career progresses.

The research presented at the conference certainly advanced my understanding of the current directions in cardiorespiratory physiology and how my work fits into this framework. I am now better prepared to move my research forward into new areas. I am indebted to the RSNZ Canterbury branch for assistance in funding this exciting trip.

13th International Symposium on Flow Visualisation, Nice, France, 1–4 July 2008 and the 14th International Symposium on Applications of Laser Techniques to Fluid Mechanics, Lisbon, Portugal, 7–10, July 2008

Nicolas Buchmann
PhD student, Centre for Bioengineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury

Nicolas BuchmannI would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for the funding to assist with my travel expenses to attend the 13th International Symposium on Flow Visualisation, Nice, France, and the 14th International Symposium on Applications of Laser Techniques to Fluid Mechanics, Lisbon, Portugal. Both conferences are amongst the largest and most renowned meetings in the field of Experimental Fluid Mechanics and Optical Flow Diagnostic and are venues for presentations and workshops in numerous areas of interest within these disciplines.

It was a pleasure for me to give four oral presentations on various technical aspects of my PhD research on experimental modeling of cardiovascular haemodynamics. My research utilizes laser based flow measurement techniques for the study of blood flow in the human cerebral arteries. In-vitro measurements are conducted in physiologically accurate models, which are constructed from CT scan data and the flow fields within are studied with great detail. The flow pattern and forces exerted by the flowing blood on the vessel wall play a key role in the initiation and progression of vascular disease, which ultimately lead to heart attack and stroke. Understanding the underlying biochemical and fluid mechanic causes will assist surgeons in their decision making process and will improve clinical intervention and post surgical care.

It has been a great experience for me to present my work in front of prominent and experienced researchers from within my area of expertise. Also, it has been a great opportunity for networking and to establish some connections for possible future collaborations.

Once again I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for providing me with this grant.

5th International Congress of Nematology, 13-18 July 2008, Brisbane, Australia

Davidson A. Lloyd
Master of Applied Science, Soil Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences Department, Lincoln University

Davidson A. LloydI am very thankful to the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for their assistance to attend the 5th International Congress of Nematology. It is held every six years and is the foremost gathering of nematologists worldwide. The congress contributed positively to the varied challenges confronting the field of nematology. Development of modern tools and techniques (molecular and otherwise) offers exciting opportunities for the management of nematode problems in a range of crops.

A component of Master of Applied Science Research Thesis entitled, “The effects of forest to pasture conversion on soil biological diversity and function” included a component on nematodes titled “nematode indicators of soil quality in a forest to pasture conversion”. We evaluated the suitability of nematodes as indicators of soil quality in a recently established pasture converted from plantation forest. This became necessary since the soils were devoid of earthworms (a commonly used indicator of soil biological quality) up to two years after the conversion. Applications of lime and nitrogen (N) did not have any significant effects on nematode composition or abundance. Comparison of the recently converted pasture to long-term forest (>60 years) and pasture (>100 years) occurring on the same soil type (within 500m) showed distinct differences in nematode assemblages in relation to land use. From our findings we were able to conclude that:

Inferred soil conditions from nematode faunal assessments agreed with actual measurements of physical, chemical and microbial soil properties.

Land use change from forest to pasture had greater impacts on the soil food web than applications of lime and N.

Nematode community assessments can be a reliable indicator of biological soil quality.

The results of this study underscored the value of combining nematode faunal assessments with soil microbial community assessments to develop a more comprehensive picture of soil biological quality.

I presented a fifteen minute oral presentation which summarized the findings of the study. I feel a true sense of having contributed to something very valuable, while simultaneously benefiting from the expert knowledge and experience of participants. The opportunities for continued networking with individuals all over the globe will have a lasting impact on my professional development.


41st Annual meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology (SIP), University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 3–7 August 2008

Celine Blond
PhD student, Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University

Celine BlondThanks to the travel award from the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand, I was able to attend the 41st Annual meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology held at the University of Warwick in England.

My project is to obtain a better understanding of the ecology and the population dynamics of Beauveria bassiana F418, an insect pathogenic fungus. This fungal strain is highly pathogenic to clover root weevil, Sitona lepidus, a serious exotic pest of New Zealand pastures. This fungus performed well in the laboratory but had a limited impact in fields; this is the reason why more research is needed on its ecology. The main aim is to research what happens to this fungus once applied in the soil and the influence of some abiotic and biotic factors on its persistence and pathogenicity in the soil. I’m using a transformed strain of this fungus which is expressing green fluorescence so we can use it to track the fate of the fungus in soil.

During the conference, I gave a presentation entitled “Effects of production media and fertilizers on persistence and virulence of Beauveria bassiana F418 and a gfp transformant F418 (tr1) in soil”. I presented the results of the comparison between the wild strain Beauveria bassiana F418 and its transformant gfp tr1 as it is important to check the transformant fungus has a similar behaviour to the wild type both in vitro and in soil. I also gave the preliminary results of the effects of fertilizers and the media on which the fungus is produced on persistence and pathogenicity in soil. My presentation was well received and I had very useful comments and advice from leading researchers in this area.

The annual meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology is the best place to meet all the experts on invertebrate pathology and microbial control from around the world. Being able to attend this meeting was a great opportunity to be introduced to all the great scientists in this area and to be able to discuss my research and expand my scientific knowledge. The Society is very supportive for students which made the whole conference a very pleasant experience.

I would like to thank once again the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand for the financial support provided to attend this major conference.

The 5th Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) World Congress, Sydney, Australia, August 3–7 2008

Amanda Black
PhD student, Soil and Physical Sciences, AGLS, Lincoln University

I recently had the fortunate opportunity to participate in the 5th SETAC World congress held in Sydney, Australia. This attendance was made possible by the student travel award gratefully received from the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The conference was held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre situated in Darling Harbour, which made for pleasant surroundings in a convenient location. This was the first time I had attended a conference of this nature and with a delegation attendance of more than 1000 people from various countries and organisations it provided an excellent environment to network. My oral presentation was scheduled for the first day and was well received. I presented material on evaluating a reasonably new technique called DGT-DIFS used for predicting metal availability to plants grown in contaminated soils. As most of the people in my session were exploring the application and limits of this technique, I was able to glean some ideas for additional uses. One advantage of having your presentation on the first day is that you are able to relax and concentrate on the variety of material presented on subsequent days. The quality of presentations was very good and the subject matter interesting, so it was sometimes a hard decision as to which session to attend. Often it was a choice between learning more within your own research area or, gaining new knowledge from other disciplines.

At the conference dinner, Dr Tim Flannery, author of The Future Eaters (and many more books) was the recipient of the Rachael Carson award for his contribution to environmental science. In his acceptance speech, Dr Flannery acknowledged the invaluable contributions environmental scientists had made, particularly in providing him with the foundation to carry out his own work. The keynote presentations were insightful and offered a global perspective on the state of the environment and efforts to implement strategies aimed at reducing negative effects. Although many of the talks were encouraging and at times inspiring, it was clear that the underlying theme throughout the conference was one of diminishing biodiversity, natural resources and climate change – all inextricably linked to human activities supporting unsustainable practices. As an emerging environmental scientist faced with these global-scale issues, it can be difficult to see how your research can make a positive or realistic contribution, and there’s always a danger of coming away feeling a little unmotivated! Fortunately this has had the opposite effect and I have returned sufficiently determined to continue with research that may achieve both.

The International Society of Behavioral Ecology Congress, New York, USA, 9–15 August 2008

Fiona Cross
PhD student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Fiona CrossThanks to a travel grant awarded to me by the RSNZ (Canterbury Branch), I attended the recent meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Ecology. This was held at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), and it was the biggest meeting to date for this society, with around 1100 people from 43 countries attending.

I’ll explain my research briefly before I get into the details of the poster I presented at this conference. I work with a species of jumping spider (Evarcha culicivora) from the Lake Victoria region of East Africa. The thing about jumping spiders is that they have remarkable eyesight for animals of their size, giving them elaborate vision-based predatory strategies and often spectacular vision-based courtship displays. However, chemical cues are also known to play important roles in these spiders’ predatory and mating strategies. E. culicivora is a particularly interesting jumping spider because it engages in an otherwise unknown foraging strategy. It feeds indirectly on vertebrate blood by choosing blood-carrying mosquitoes as prey. However, E. culicivora is special in another way as well. Although jumping spiders are known to have some of the most complex courtship display repertoires in the animal kingdom, E. culicivora’s courtship is the most complex for any jumping spider studied to date. In the animal kingdom in general, the trend is for males to be more active in courtship and for females to be more active in choosing mates, but with E. culicivora both the male and females are involved in courtship, and both are involved in choosing. Both the male and the female also use a wide range of behaviour patterns during courtship.

However, something else that is particularly interesting about E. culicivora is that there appears to be a link between its unusual prey preference and its attraction to the opposite sex. When E. culicivora has fed on a blood-carrying mosquito it appears to acquire a blood odour that makes it more attractive to potential mates. When given the choice between the odour alone of two potential mates, E. culicivora goes towards the odour of a mate that has recently fed on a blood-filled mosquito significantly more often than the odour of a mate that has eaten something else.

I presented these findings at the ISBE conference with my poster called "Vampire spiders: the advantage of being smelly". Not only did the unusual title attract attention, but the wonderful thing was that it gave me the opportunity to meet world-class researchers in the area of animal behaviour (including George Uetz, who I’m explaining the poster to in the photo). This was my first time at an international conference, and the biggest advantage with going was getting to meet these people and to discuss my research with them. While I was in the area, I also took the opportunity to visit the lab of another spider researcher, Beth Jakob, in Massachusetts. It was a wonderful opportunity to go on this trip and I hope to go to another international conference in the near future.


International College of Geriatric Psychoneuropharmacology Conference, Sydney, Australia, 3–6 September 2008

Janet Mace
PhD student, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago Christchurch.

Janet MaceWith much appreciated assistance from the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch, I attended the 8th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International College of Geriatric Psychoneuropharmacology held in Sydney. The meeting comprised a series of keynote, symposia and poster presentations focussed on the latest – and, sometimes, yet to be published - data from current studies in degenerative ageing, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD), depression; and healthy ageing, e.g., the Sydney Centenarian Study. In particular, and with reference to mental health in old age, key topics included: stress reactivity, neural stem cells, genetics, antipsychotic and cognitive enhancing medication, and neuroimaging.

My contribution was a poster of selected results from my PhD research. This research involved reducing the level of serotonin in the brains of patients with PD and healthy older persons, and observing the effect on movement, mood, and cognitive function. While the motor symptoms of PD are disabling, it is the non-motor symptoms that frequently constitute a significant source of disability for patients and which are ultimately responsible for placement in a nursing home. Because current treatments show limited efficacy for depression or cognitive impairment in PD, pharmacological strategies targeting these symptoms would greatly enhance the daily life of patients.

PD is associated with reduced levels of the neurochemicals dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. Dopamine and acetylcholine are involved directly in movement, mood and cognition, but serotonin is involved through its modulation of other neurotransmitter systems. It was hypothesised a reduction in brain serotonin level would improve movement, mood, and cognition in PD. Interestingly, in PD patients, relative to controls and a neutral manipulation, the reduction did effect an improvement in thinking times and visual memory; however, global cognition and verbal memory were worsened.

The relevance of these results to participants at the recent conference - many of whom were practising psychiatrists, neurologist, and geriatricians - is that various treatments for cognitive impairment and motor disorder currently in use and being developed for the elderly involve serotonergic manipulation. The data I presented on the effects of a global reduction in serotonin synthesis should at least be taken into account when considering the likely effects of these treatments.

The material presented at this conference was amazing; this was cutting edge stuff and I felt very much a part of that frontier group in neuroscience investigating ways to optimise the ageing process.

SPIE Europe Remote Sensing symposium, Cardiff, Wales, 15–18 September, 2008

Judy Mohr
PhD student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury.

Judy MohrWith the assistance of the RSNZ, Canterbury Branch travel award I was recently able to attend the SPIE Europe Remote Sensing symposium. While at the symposium I presented an oral paper on my work on “Optical Turbulence Profiling at Mount John University Observatory.” Conference attendees included some of the more recognized global leaders in the field of adaptive optics and optical turbulence. The SPIE symposium provided an opportunity to foster and develop international contacts towards further work in my field of study. The work that we are doing in New Zealand was very well received by the European and American research community and valuable contacts were made.

After the conference I also visited the Applied Optics Research Group at the National University of Ireland in Galway. The work they are currently doing is very interesting and provided me with some ideas that could be incorporated into my own work.


13th International Congress of Endocrinology, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 8–12 November, 2008

Nicola Scott
Postdoctoral Fellow, Christchurch Cardioendocrine Research Group, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

Nicola Scott
Associate Professor Miriam Rademaker and Nicola Scott in front of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2008.
Over 6000 delegates from 95 countries attended the combined meeting of the 13th International Congress of Endocrinology (ICE) and 28th Brazilian Congress of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Thanks to the generous support of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch I was able to give a poster presentation describing my studies examining the role of the natriuretic peptide signalling in cardiac development in Natriuretic Peptide Receptor-1 deficient (Npr1-/-) mice. My studies have demonstrated the appearance of cardiac enlargement in embryonic Npr-1-/- mice in conjunction with age-dependent differential expression of genes integrally involved in physiological cardiac remodelling indicates different roles of natriuretic peptide signalling in cardiac development compared to that seen during the dynamic remodelling associated with cardiovascular pathology. On the basis of my abstract I was awarded a Young Investigator Award from the International Society of Endocrinology to help with travel expenses to a future endocrinology meeting. Attending the premier Endocrinology meeting of 2008 was a rewarding experience for me, affording me the opportunity to discuss my PhD research with other scientists. Several interesting and exciting discussions regarding my research results have lead to the possibility of future collaborations.

Rio is internationally renowned for spectacular scenery and fabulous street parties and as first time visitors to this marvellous city we were not disappointed! The traditional sights of Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado were well worth a visit and Copacabana and Ipanema beaches lived up to their Hollywood infamy. While the social programme planned by the organising committee displayed true Brazilian flare and included a sensational Samba show, the scientific programme was exceptional with over 300 invited international speakers integrating plenary, symposium, scientific debates and interactive 'Meet the Professor' sessions. During the meeting several topical lectures were presented highlighting the use of endocrine discoveries (ie oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy) in tackling the relevant issues of global warming and world health epidemics such as obesity and diabetes.

A particular highlight of attending ICE 2008 was the opportunity to attend the International Society of Endocrinology’s general council meeting as a representative for the New Zealand Society of Endocrinology. In addition to meeting internationally renowned endocrinologists such as Professors Paul Stewart and Wylie Vale is was exciting to be able to contribute to the planning of ICE 2010 in Kyoto, Japan.

The annual American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention, Chicago, Illinois, 20–22 November 2008

Naomi Katharina Zens
PhD student, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury

Naomi Katharina ZensI would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for the funding to assist with my expenses in attending this Convention. The ASHA convention is the largest international convention for speech-language therapists and audiologists and is the venue for presentations of research in numerous areas of interest within these disciplines.

My PhD research investigates word-learning skills in children with language impairment. Specifically, I am examining the effectiveness of two intervention methods to improve the word-learning skills in children who display difficulties in acquiring vocabulary. Findings from this study revealed that specific intervention can facilitate word-learning abilities in children with language impairment.

At this conference, I was fortunate to present a technical paper about the interventions that targeted to improve word-learning skills in children with language impairment and discuss the results of the study.

It has been a great experience to present my work to prominent and experienced researchers in my area and to clinicians who work with children affected by these difficulties. Also, it has been a great opportunity for networking and to establish some connections for possible future collaborations. Given the very small number of people working in this field in New Zealand, the opportunity to meet with those doing similar work is both rewarding and encouraging.

Once again I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury branch for providing me with this grant.


SOILS2008 conference in Palmerston North, 1–5 December, 2008

Laure Steiner
PhD Student, Soil and Physical Sciences Group, Lincoln University

Laure SteinerI have very much appreciated the award you provided me to go to the SOILS2008 conference. During that conference I presented, by oral, part of the results of my PhD research which is about the risk associated with estrogenic hormones in dairy farm effluent applied on pasture soils.

The aim of this study is to determine which pathways are responsible for the transport in soil of two estrogenic hormones,17ß-estradiol and estrone, in order to better understand under which conditions groundwater contamination with hormones is most likely to occur. Natural estrogenic hormones are endocrine disrupting chemicals and therefore can have adverse effects on the reproduction and development of several aquatic organisms even at nanogram per litre concentration. In order to assess if the common practice of applying dairy farm effluent on the land as fertiliser is a risk for groundwater contamination, a field trial has been carried out using large undisturbed soil column (lysimeters). Dairy farm effluent, spiked with hormones was applied on the lysimeters which are regularly irrigated. Hormone concentration was monitored in the soil and leachate during 90 days. Some lysimeters showed sign of preferential flow and in this case the hormones were leached very quickly following the same pattern as the inert bromide tracer. When only micropore flow was prevailing, the model predicted no hormone leaching. However small but detectable concentrations of hormone were detected in this case. To explain this, a colloidal enhanced transport process was hypothesised. This hypothesis was confirmed by a good correlation between the modified model and the data.

To attend this conference has been for me a very interesting experience for several reasons. First, to present results in a clear and simple way is always a good exercise. I also learnt a lot from the questions and discussion that I got from and with people attending my talk. Those discussions raised new questions and point of views that can only enrich my research outcomes. Of course, to attend other talks on similar or very different topic than mine was extremely interesting. Eventually, during this event I met new people from different institutions throughout the country and with different backgrounds, which is also very appreciable.

I would like to thank the Royal Society, Canterbury Branch very much for the support they provided. I am very grateful.

The Australasian Society for Psychiatric Research (ASPR) Conference, Newcastle, Australia, 2–5 December, 2008

Jenni Johnstone
PhD student, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago

Jenni JohnstoneMany thanks for your recent financial support. This was the first conference at which I gave an oral presentation of my initial PhD findings. For my research, I'm looking at the impact of childhood adversity and how it predicts treatment response in adult depression. To say it another way, I'm asking the question, "How do adults who present with depression respond to different types of treatment such as medication or psychotherapy, if they report having certain adverse experiences as children?"

What I've found so far is that participants who report low care from their fathers did not complete an adequate trial of antidepressant medication, while those who report overprotection from their mothers, meaning they did not feel able to make their own decisions or have opinions which differed from their mothers, did worse on a number of outcome measures. Interestingly, childhood abuse, although strongly associated with the development of adult depression, did not predict response to treatment. This finding was counter to our hypothesis. Overall, these findings are interesting to psychiatrists and psychologists when considering what type of treatment to recommend when a patient comes in reporting certain childhood experiences.

The aspects of the conference I valued the most were the opportunity to share my research in the form of a presentation (and overcome my fear of doing so!), and hear from other speakers on a range of pertinent topics. Of note, I was interested in how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-V) will be structured in the future, and how natural supplements, such as Omega 3 fatty acids, are being used in conjunction with medication, to treat mental illnesses including uni- and bi-polar depression, and schizophrenia.

I've just finished my first full year of study at the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch. I'm juggling this research with the Clinical Psychology programme at University of Canterbury as well, so it's a busy time.

If you have any questions or would like more information about my research, please contact me:

Thank you so much for your financial support. Without it, I might not have attended the conference.

Australasian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference, Adelaide, Australia, 7–10 December 2008

William Liu
PhD student, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury

William LiuI am very grateful to RSNZ (Royal Society of New Zealand) Canterbury Branch for a travel grant which gave me the opportunity to attend the Australasian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (ATNAC), Adelaide, Australia, 7-10 December 2008.

The Australasian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference is Australia’s foremost gathering of the ICT research community and plays an important role in providing networking opportunities for the current and next generation of ICT researchers, technologists and managers. This year’s conference features a day devoted to the opportunities and challenges of widespread rollout of broadband in Australia.

As a PhD student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Canterbury, this conference was especially beneficial to me as my research is in the area of Network Resilience in Next Generation Networks (NGNs), also an excellent opportunity to present my findings from research undertaken. Over there, I was able to give an oral presentation of my work, which is to propose a novel framework in the area of survivable routing with shared path protection in a distributed control environment. My research goal is to dynamically determine a protection cycle (i.e., two link-disjoint paths between a source-destination node pair) and allocate spare capacity for a connection establishment request so as to minimize total bandwidth consumption in multi-service NGNs environment. Most importantly, I was able to share my research and then receive comments and ideas from experienced delegates from a wide range of disciplines and discuss those ideas with notable telecommunication experts worldwide.

This conference trip would not have been possible without the generous support of the RSNZ Canterbury Branch, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank the society for the great financial support.

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