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GNS Science researchers awarded three new Marsden grants - 08/11/2016

GNS Science researchers have won Marsden Fund support for three new projects over the next three years in the latest round of the investigator-led research fund announced last week.

The Marsden Fund is for curiosity-driven research projects and is not subject to government science priorities. It is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the New Zealand Government. Named after physicist Sir Ernest Marsden, the Fund was set up in 1994.

A photograph of Dr Ian Hamling

Dr Ian Hamling. Photo: Margaret Low, GNS Science

The two successful GNS Science projects are ‘fast-start’ Marsdens, which are awarded to early career scientists. In addition, a GNS Science researcher is a co-leader of a successful ‘standard Marsden’ project that will investigate a slow-moving landslide the size of Auckland on the seafloor east of Gisborne.

A total of 117 projects were allocated funding of $65.2 million in this year’s grants. This is an increase on the 92 projects awarded funding in last year’s round.

The two GNS Science ‘fast starts’ receive $300,000 each for the three-year term of the projects.

One of these projects will use satellite and GPS data to investigate strain accumulation, deformation, and crustal faulting across the South Island to improve the assessment of earthquake hazards.

Led by geodesy specialist Ian Hamling, this project will use Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and GPS data to provide new information on known faults and search for geological structures that may warrant closer investigation.

The other ‘fast start’ will investigate the hydrogen metabolism of economically and environmentally important bacteria to improve our understanding of global methane cycles and climate change.

A photograph of Dr Carlo Carere of GNS Science.

Dr Carlo Carere. Photo: Margaret Low, GNS Science.

Led by geothermal microbiologist Carlo Carere, the project will combine genomics, physiological observation and bio-energetic assays to characterise the metabolic flexibility in methanotrophs – bacteria that consume methane.

The submarine landslide study is being led jointly by GNS Science marine geophysicist Gareth Crutchley and NIWA marine geologist Joshu Mountjoy. It was awarded funding of $850,000.   

Scientists currently don’t know if such large seafloor landslides move catastrophically and rapidly, or if they are slowly creeping along. This has implications for their ability to trigger a tsunami.

Large parts of the landslide are thought to be about 20,000 years old and scientists want to find out what is causing slow movement within the landslide.