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Institute recruits top oceanographer - 17/02/1999

The Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS), has recruited one of the world leading oceanographers to help study the geochemistry of the southern oceans, and the seafloor off New Zealand coast.

Gary Massoth comes to New Zealand from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in the United States where he has built a formidable reputation for his expertise in undersea exploration and knowledge of seafloor hydrothermal systems, or black smokers. He has been a key participant many international marine research expeditions, including those led by GNS.

Mr Massoth will bring to New Zealand a high-tech ocean measuring instrument he has developed. One of only three such instruments in the world, it will be used to analyse the chemistry and physical characteristics of the ocean near New Zealand continental shelf.

Known as SUAVE (SUbmersible system used to Assess Vented Emissions), it is a state-of-the-art chemical analyser and sensor array that is towed behind a ship. As well as analysing chemicals in seawater, it carries sensors for temperature, pressure, conductivity, and light scattering. The instrument sends scientists on-board a continuous stream of instantaneous information that improves their understanding of the ocean and seafloor volcanoes.

Mr Massoth also has a strong background in estuarine research. He has worked in pristine environments such as the coast of Alaska, and urbanised estuaries such as San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound in the state of Washington.

GNS Chief Executive Andrew West said Mr Massoth represented a considerable enhancement to New Zealand capabilities to assess its offshore resources.

" Mr Massoth experience will be invaluable in our work to understand the links between undersea volcanoes, ocean chemistry, and fisheries sustainability.

" He will also increase New Zealand ability to collaborate with leading international research organisations. It is pleasing that, at a time when we hear of top New Zealand researchers heading overseas, here we have one of the world leading scientists coming to GNS.

A major plus for GNS is that Mr Massoth would boost the Institute work on studying the continental shelf for New Zealand United Nations Law of the Sea Convention bid. New Zealand has until 2006 to lodge a claim to the UN to extend its economic territory beyond its present Exclusive Economic Zone.

Mr Massoth has visited New Zealand during his research and considers it offers a unique balance of lifestyle and scientific opportunity. Mr Massoth, his wife and their two children plan to settle in Wellington.

Cornel de Ronde
Minerals Geologist
Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited