Science Leadership Team

Science Leadership Team

The Science Leadership Team is responsible for the Challenge's strategic direction, science quality, activities and management.

Julie Hall – Director

Julie has extensive experience in biological oceanography, leading large multidisciplinary research projects, and in the management of people and projects. Her scientific background is in food web dynamics in both marine and freshwater ecosystems with a special interest in microbial foodwebs.

As the international chair of the Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) project she was responsible for leading the development and implementation of the multidisciplinary Science Plan that addressed the interaction of marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems and their response to global change. This is a wide ranging project which includes experimental and observational studies and modelling of natural and social systems.

In addition, her involvement in a range of projects associated with the Global Ocean Observing System has given her a broad knowledge of marine observation systems, data management and the integration of observations and models. Julie also has extensive project and people management experience, and has been a Regional Manager for NIWA Wellington for the past 7 years.

John Wright - Manager

John has extensive people, project and programme management experience, both in IT and science-based projects. He has led large teams ranging in scale from 10 to 100 people over multi-year programmes of work. As an independent consultant, he has successfully executed a range of project management assignments comprising planning, execution and audit work. His academic background is in pure and applied mathematics, gaining an MSc from Auckland University.

Carolyn Lundquist - Programme Leader: Our Seas

Carolyn is Principal Scientist, Marine Ecology Research Group, NIWA and Senior Lecturer, Institute of Marine Science, Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science, University of Auckland. Carolyn has recently led the large multidisciplinary, multi-organisational Marine Futures project which was focused on the development of socio-ecological participatory processes of the management of marine ecosystems.

Through the leadership of this project she gained an excellent understanding of research into stakeholder engagement and socio–ecological research. Carolyn also has expertise in marine protected area design, benthic ecosystems, connectivity between marine invertebrate populations and habitats to advise commercial, recreational and traditional fishery management, estuarine restoration including shellfish and seagrass restoration and mangrove management. She has extensive scientific networks both within New Zealand and internationally through her involvement in the leadership of an IPBES stakeholders group on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Judi Hewitt - Programme Leader: Valuable Seas

Judi is Programme Leader Our Changing Oceans, Coasts and Oceans Centre, NIWA, and Professor Marine Biology (docent), University of Helsinki, Finland.

Judi is a statistical marine ecologist who has worked extensively in estuarine and coastal systems and has recently been involved in projects assessing ecosystem health and ecosystems services. She also has expertise in assessing species, functional trait and habitat diversity, analysis of spatial and temporal variation in populations and communities, design and implementation of ecological monitoring programmes, and ecological risk assessment.

Most recently Judi has been involved in projects assessing ecosystem health and ecosystem services.

Judi has extensive experience in multidisciplinary research and interactions with stakeholders having completed many projects for commercial clients, and has worked with stakeholder panels for research projects she regularly leads.

Linda Faulkner - Programme Leader: Tangaroa

Linda is of Ngāti Rangi and Whanganui descent from the southern central plateau region and the Whanganui River. She has worked for many years in the environmental management sector and has spent much of her career seeking to facilitate recognition and application of mātauranga Māori to mainstream environments.

Linda is currently the Director of Tutaiao Ltd., a private consultancy focusing on people, policy and planning. In her previous position she was General Manager Māori at the EPA, where she gained extensive experience in the area of environmental and cultural risk assessment and management. 

Linda has also served on several MBIE research investment panels and worked for Te Papa supporting the developing policy and process that ensured implementation of effective bicultural partnership.

Conrad Pilditch - Programme Leader: Dynamic Seas

Conrad is a Professor of Marine Science at the University of Waikato. His research interests focus on the dynamics of marine soft sediment ecosystems – a globally-extensive habitat that provides critical ecosystem goods and services for society, and which is amongst the most affected by human activities. He has worked extensively in both coastal and deep-sea environments.

Recent projects have focused on determining biodiversity and ecosystem function responses to globally important stressors (sedimentation, eutrophication and acidification) in our harbours and estuaries. Conrad’s bio-physical research interests provide critical links between field-based science and models of ecosystem processes that underpin marine management.

Conrad has worked collaboratively on large national and international multi-disciplinary projects throughout his career.

He has assisted iwi with developing monitoring programs; developed strong relationships with regional councils, port companies and others, who have funded research to underpin better management decisions; and contributed to marine management, conservation and policy initiatives through expert opinion, peer review and workshops for regional and central government agencies.

Chris Cornelisen - Programme Leader: Managed Seas

Chris Cornelisen leads the coastal sciences group at the Cawthron Institute and has over 20 years research experience in physical biology, land-sea interactions, and source-tracking contaminants in the marine environment. Earlier in his career, Chris addressed marine resource management issues as a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fellow and spent several years as a marine educator.

More recently, Chris and the teams he leads have been developing integrated frameworks for coastal monitoring and forecasting tools for aquaculture. He is also helping advance remote sensing methods and the design and deployment of ocean observing platforms.

Chris works extensively with Industry and resource managers at the coal face of resource management issues; this provides him with a big picture understanding of the challenges around growing the marine economy. Chris is passionate about the role science has to play in society, and envisions New Zealand becoming the world exemplar of ocean stewardship and sustainable use of marine resources.

James Whetu – Programme Leader: Vision Mātauranga

James has a professional background in resource management planning with a Bachelor of Tourism, majoring in Resource, Impacts and Environmental Planning, he is currently working towards completing his Masters in Resource and Environmental Planning.

For the past 5 years he has worked in the area of incorporating mātauranga Māori into planning processes to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes and outputs for Māori and wider communities. This experience and knowledge has positioned him well to work with research institutes, policy makers, and tangata whenua to find pragmatic, whilst also innovative, approaches to recognise and provide for mātauranga Maori in a local context and to deliver the aspirations sought in MBIE's Vision Mātauranga policy framework.

Janet Stephenson – Programme Leader: Cross-Programme Projects

Janet is Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago. She is passionate about collaborative, interdisciplinary research, and her academic background includes sociology, planning and human geography. She previously worked as a planner and hearings commissioner in the Far North for the district and regional councils. 

Her research interests include indigenous resource management; the interconnections between people and their local environments; and the role of individuals and organisations in the transition to a sustainable future.

Janet’s research includes the governance, planning, and management of coastal mahinga kai (customary food-gathering places); cultural values in landscapes; tools and techniques for communicating Māori values and concerns in the resource management process under the RMA; and valuation frameworks for marine decision-making. She has led or co-led several interdisciplinary research teams on sustainability research.

Robin Wilkinson – Communications and Outreach

Robin has a science background and 14 years’ experience in communicating research, science and technological developments. She has worked for the Department of Conservation, Allan Wilson Centre and Science Media Centre NZ. Previously, she worked at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, one of the most research-active NHS trusts in the UK, and at Proof Communication, a specialist science communication agency.

She has developed and delivered science communications strategies for UK research councils, European science collaborations, universities, and industry.

Robin also has experience in public engagement, gained at the Science Museum in London and Manchester Museum.

Latest news and updates

Eureka! Is ocean farming the future?

Jonathan Chan, from Auckland Grammar School, has won the Eureka Award Gold Scholarship sponsored by NIWA for the most innovative and creative science, technology and/or engineering solution that addresses issues at the core of the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

Coastal tipping points talk at EDS conference

Prof Simon Thrush gave an invited presentation about our national estuaries experiment, and opportunities for management and governance agencies to address sudden unexpected changes in marine ecosystems.