Students tie for prestigious earth science scholarship - 25/05/1999

Two post-graduate students will be sharing a $20,000 earth science scholarship award because judges could not separate them.

Josie Robertson of Auckland University and Nigel Hill of Victoria University, both masters students, were selected as finalists from applicants from university earth science faculties throughout New Zealand.

Both are inaugural recipients of the Sarah Beanland Memorial Scholarship, set up to assist New Zealand’s leading young earth scientists. The scholarship is funded by the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS), and administered by GNS, the Geological Society, and the Geophysical Society. It consists of a $15,000 study grant, plus $5000 expenses.

Ms Robertson and Mr Hill will receive $10,000 each.
Ms Robertson is doing her thesis on seafloor hydrothremal vents in the Bay of Plenty. She is concentrating on three active vent sites known as the Calypso vents, about 15km southwest of White Island. They are between 170m and 200m deep and venting gas-rich fluids at about 200C from deep within the Earth.

Her study will complement existing studies of deep offshore submarine vent systems, and is expected to make a significant contribution in understanding the transition between terrestrial geothermal systems of the Taupo Volcanic Zone and offshore systems. Ms Robertson’s work also will help further define New Zealand’s offshore mineral resources.

Mr Hill is studying the history of earthquakes on the Awatere Fault in Marlborough. By subjecting 6m-long sediment cores from the bottom of Lake Jasper to a range of scientific analyses, he has deduced that the Awatere Fault may have ruptured 14 times in the past 15,000 years. The average interval between ruptures is about 1000 years. Even though he is only part-way through his thesis project, his findings are considered highly significant. More work is needed to confirm the rupture dates.

His award will help with field work and data analysis over the next nine months. Mr Hill’s work will help refine the earthquake hazard potential in the top half of the South Island, particularly in Marlborough.

Robin Falconer, GNS Hazards Group Manager, said both finalists were of an extremely high calibre and it was impossible to separate them. He was confident both recipients would make a substantial contribution to earth sciences in New Zealand.

  • The scholarship is named after Dr Sarah Beanland who died in a tramping accident in 1996. An earthquake geologist with GNS, she was awarded a PhD two months before her death. Dr Beanland contributed to internationally significant research on the deformation of New Zealand due to tectonic forces. She received many awards during her career and was widely regarded as a role model.