25 March 1996 Three Lincoln scientists promoted to professor
Three internationally respected Lincoln University scientists working in key areas of the New Zealand economy's primary production sector have been promoted to personal professorships.
The new professors are soil scientist Dr Keith Cameron of the Department of Soil Science, plant pathologist Dr Roy Gaunt of the Department of Plant Science and insect ecologist Dr Steve Wratten of the Department of Entomology and Animal Ecology.
Personal chairs are a rare distinction acknowledging major contributions in academic areas and there are only two others currently held among Lincoln's complement of over 200 academics.
Professor Cameron started at Lincoln in 1981 as an Assistant Lecturer and has been progressively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Soil Science.
As a teacher he ranks among the top lecturers at Lincoln and as a researcher he holds one of Lincoln's coveted Special Achievement Awards for Excellence.
Professor Cameron is the foundation Director of the Lincoln Soil Quality Research Centre, a joint centre with Lincoln Ventures Ltd; co-author with Dr Ron McLaren of the standard soil science textbook “Soil Science”; and the Minister of Education’s representative on the Council of Telford Rural Polytechnic.
He is the immediate past president of the NZ Society of Soil Science and a member of the Royal Society of New Zealand's Standing Committee on Primary Production, Science and Technology.
At Lincoln in the 1980s he and departmental colleagues developed an underground facility called a lysimeter laboratory and this has contributed significantly to soil science and environmental research throughout Australasia.
Professor Cameron’s research is founded on sustainable production and environmental protection and he has made major contributions to the understanding of the movement of nutrients and other solutions through soils.
In the environmental area his work has dealt with techniques for minimising nitrate leaching from soils and reducing ground water pollution. His current research concerns the effects on soil and water quality of organic wastes applied to land. Much of this work is funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology and involves collaboration with scientists in other organisations.
Professor Wratten came to Lincoln in 1993 as Reader in Ecology and he too holds one of the University's Special Achievement Awards for Excellence in Research.
Professor Wratten's specialist areas are the interactions between insects and plants, the ecological basis for the biological control of pests and the molecular ecology of introduced insect pests.
In Britain, in the 1980s he was a member of the first grouping the world to DNA "fingerprint" individual aphids and weevils.
He is the author of four ecology text books and at Lincoln he heads a postgraduate and postdoctoral research group in insect ecology. The group's focus is on practical, nonchemical solutions to the problem of insect pests in commercial crops. Prominent recent work has involved the enhancement of the number of predatory insects to increase their role in pest control. Current work also includes encouraging a return of bumble bees to the countryside as natural pollinators.
Professor Wratten has developed many collaborative links between Lincoln University and Crown and Commercial research organisations throughout New Zealand and overseas. He is also the University's Academic Programme Director for Postgraduate Studies.
Nationally Professor Wratten is a member of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology's Advisory Committee on Land Environments.
Professor Gaunt has been a Lincoln staff member since 1976. He chairs the University's Plant Protection Group and he has put the University at the forefront of work on the response of crops to disease, disease management and fungicide resistance.
As with his two new professorial colleagues, Professor Gaunt also holds a Lincoln University Special Achievement Award for Excellence in Research.
Working with crops as diverse as apples, cereals, kiwifruit, grapes, peas and stone fruit, Professor Gaunt and his team have sought an understanding of disease processes rather than simply taking a "firefighting" approach every time a plant disease breaks out.
In the area of disease assessment methodology, Professor Gaunt is currently working on measuring residual green areas rather than the diseased areas, an approach which is gaining wide acceptance in crop loss studies and has potential for disease management. His use of reflectance meters to measure green leaf area has been shown to be suitable for yield prediction in diseased crops.
As an epidemiologist his work on pathogen populations has also gained international recognition.
Professor Gaunt was a founding director of the Plant Protection Research Unit at Lincoln University, with responsibility for plant pathology, and he is also the Director of the University’s Division of Science and Primary Production. Nationally he is a member of the New Zealand Committee for Pesticide Resistance and chairs its Fungicide Task Force. Internationally he chairs the Epidemiology, Crop Loss and Production Constraints Committee of the International Society for Plant Pathology, of which he is also a council member.
Ian Collins, Journalist, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand.