Two University of Auckland scientists have been awarded top medals from the New Zealand Associate of Scientists (NZAS).
Marine researcher Professor Mark Costello and physicist Associate Professor Frédérique Vanholsbeeck receive the Shorland
Medal and the Hill Tinsley Medal respectively for major and outstanding contributions in their fields.
Professor Costello is acknowledged for his pioneering work in the field of ocean diversity informatics which involve two
free online databases, the World Register of Marine Species, which includes names and information on over 240,000
species, and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System contains over 50 million species field records.
Analyses of these databases has led to notable advances in biological and marine sciences and a rethinking of
established viewpoints. The information has improved predictions of how many species may exist, increased the numbers of
people describing species new to science, led to new data-driven maps of ocean biodiversity and helped pin-point the
best location of marine reserves.
He has championed open data and led conceptual thinking that has guided change in scientific practice, making it more
international and collaborative. Alongside this outstanding service to science, Professor Costello’s own research is
internationally recognised and highly cited. His latest study is the discovery of a dip in marine diversity at the
equator due to climate warming.
Associate Professor Vanholsbeeck is a physicist whose primary field of research is biophotonics, the use of optical and
laser technologies for biomedical studies. Her research on monitoring bacteria using quantitative fluorescence
spectroscopy – very accurate measurement of the spectral density of the fluorescence signal – has created a better
understanding on how to monitor bacterial viability and antibiotic efficiency.
She has developed a near-real time, cost-effective and portable fluorometer, the optrode, for quantifying fluorescence
signals leading to better food safety and antibiotic sensitivity testing.
She leads a biophotonics lab at the University, undertaking both fundamental and applied research with diverse and
varied interdisciplinary collaboration. A further notable aspect of her work has been the extent to which she mentors a
vibrant group of early career researchers and postgraduate research students.
University of Auckland Dean of Science Professor John Hosking congratulated both recipients.
“These Medals are a significant acknowledgement of the contribution both researchers have made in their respective
fields and I warmly congratulate them on having their work recognised in this way.”
The Shorland Medal is awarded in recognition of major and continued contribution to basic or applied research that has
added significantly to scientific understanding or resulted in significant benefits to society.
The Hill Tinsley Medal is awarded for outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social
sciences published by a scientist or scientists within 15 years of their PhD.