New Zealand Marine Science Society


This highly prestigious award was inaugurated in 1985. The award is presented to a person who, in the opinion of the NZMSS Council, has participated in the activities of the Society, has represented the interests of the Society, and has been instrumental in the Society achieving its objective of the advancement of marine science in New Zealand. The award recognises “a person’s continued outstanding contribution to marine science in New Zealand”.

The award is a bronze sculpture in the form of the internal spire of a gastropod shell. It was designed and manufactured by Wellington artist Nick Dryden, and comes with an engraved plaque. The award carries with it lifetime membership of the Society. In accepting the Award the recipient agrees to continue promoting marine science in New Zealand by giving two or more public lectures on a topic of their own choosing. NZMSS awards are presented to individuals in recognition of their continued and outstanding contribution to marine science in New Zealand.

NZMSS Award Nomination Procedure

All nominations must be made using the nomination form. In order to produce comparable citations we ask nominators to summarise the case for the nominee under the headings provided. Nominators should aim to write concisely and highlight the main arguments to support the nomination made. The Council can make additional enquiries, via referees, as it sees fit.

Call for 2019 nominations is now open (nomination forms due by 5pm 7 April)

Please email the completed nomination form to Please insert ‘NZMSS Award’ in the subject line and the name of the nominee in the file name when sending the completed form. The Council will choose the recipient from the nominations, and all nominations remain confidential to the Council. The award is presented at the NZMSS annual conference. The award need not be given every year.



Recipients of the award are chosen by the Council from nominations submitted by any member of the Society. Nominations are considered annually but the Council need not present an award each year. The three awards bestowed in the inaugural year, on scientists considered to be “founders of marine science in New Zealand”, honoured work on ocean physics, marine geology and marine ecology. The subsequent recipients have made their contributions across an equally broad spectrum of marine science endeavour.

2018 Recipient - Dr. Conrad Pilditch

The 2018 NZMSS award was presented to Prof Conrad Pilditch in recognition of his research achievements in marine ecology and the instrumental role he plays in developing the careers of his students.

Prof Pilditch has worked on a diverse range of topics, traversing intertidal flats to the deep ocean. Collaborating with national and international colleagues, he has 115 peer reviewed publications, and is a respected advisor on environmental issues. As a passionate science communicator, he never tires of talking to the public about scientific issues and promoting marine science throughout New Zealand.


Prof Pilditch is a well-liked and respected teacher, chief supervisor and mentor. He enthusiastically supports his students in the field, has co-authored at least 20 of his publications in the last three years with students and provides support and encouragement for his students to present at NZMSS conferences.

2017 Recipient - Dr. Mark Costello  

The 2017 NZMSS award was presented to Dr Mark Costello in recognition of the instrumental role his research played in providing new insights into patterns of extinction, biogeography of evolution of species on a global scale, and conservation needs in relation to biodiversity.

Dr Costello has led key global initiatives that brought research data into the public domain for the benefit of science and society. As an internationally respected ecologist, specialising in marine ecosystems, nature conservation, parasites and invasive species, he was a pioneer in the field of ‘ocean biodiversity informatics’ by leading the establishment of world databases that are now core resources in marine biology.

Dr Costello has over 150 peer-reviewed publications, held a variety of senior roles in his field of science and has encouraged and supported students as a lecturer and supervisor.

Over the last years of Dr Bill Ballantine’s life, Dr Costello encouraged and supported him to publish his important work and therefore contributed to the preservation of Dr Ballantine’s knowledge.

2016 Recipient - Dr. Judi Hewitt 

The award was presented in Wellington at the annual NZMSS conference to Dr Judi Hewitt who is best known for her skills in using advanced statistics to address challenging ecological questions.

It is made for outstanding contribution to marine science in New Zealand and this year recognises that Hamilton-based Dr Hewitt has made major contributions to understanding the role of scale in ecology.

Her seminal publication on ecological scaling was published in American Naturalist in 2007 and is regarded as one of the most important papers in marine ecology. Throughout her career, Dr Hewitt has published more than 130 peer reviewed journal articles and is an editor for two international journals.

One paper published in the journal Ecology revealed the role of shell debris patches in driving biodiversity in what is frequently viewed as featureless plains of mud.  This paper has been cited 112 times by studies that range from coral and rocky reefs, to terrestrial plant communities and effects of invasive earthworms."

Dr Hewitt is in demand internationally and in addition to science leadership roles at NIWA and with the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge hosted by NIWA, she is also a professor of marine biology at the University of Helsinki.

 “Dr Hewitt’s reputation and the respect in which is held as a solutions-focused research has led to her being in demand with many regional and national resource management agencies.

“She has developed models of ecosystem health for harbours and estuaries and designed impact assessment surveys for deep sea ecosystems associated with fishing and mining which demonstrate her ability to translate practical research experience into effective advice,” the judges said.

The NZMSS also said Dr Hewitt was an excellent science communicator, delivering lectures and talks around New Zealand and overseas and was also an outstanding role model and mentor for young women in science. 

2015 Recipient - Rob Murdoch

Dr Murdoch has had a major influence on the extent and direction of marine and natural resource science in New Zealand, through his oceanographic research career and latterly his senior roles at NIWA, and his valuable contributions on numerous advisory boards and panels, including WWF New Zealand and the Antarctic Research Institute. Dr Murdoch has also been a guiding hand to the careers of many marine scientists.

He continues to play a key role in ensuring that New Zealand’s oceanographic research capability is world class and provides the sophisticated state-of-the-art platforms New Zealand needs to enhance the benefits of our vast marine environment.

Dr Murdoch has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Prize jointly awarded with NIWA and University of Otago colleagues for their work in iron fertilisation as a process for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and the Royal Society’s Thomson Medal in 2014 for his contribution to the development of environmental science in New Zealand as science leader.

2014 Recipient - Keith Probert

Dr Keith Probert has had a long and illustrious career both as a marine scientist and mentor for future marine scientists in New Zealand. His research on benthic ecology started in New Zealand in 1973 at the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute (now NIWA). He then moved on to the University of Otago, where he was on the staff of the Portobello Marine Laboratory and is now in the Department of Marine Science. Keith’s research was foremost in expanding the early studies of benthic communities on New Zealand’s continental shelf and slopes to encompass process as well as description. Furthermore, his research demonstrating and predicting the likely impact of bottom fishing on benthic communities on seamounts was world leading and the first to publish a clear argument for deep-sea conservation worldwide. This work was a precursor to a national seamount research programme which studied the effects of fishing on seamounts, and saw New Zealand establish the first seamount-specific fishing closures in the world. Keith has authored a substantial number of publications, mostly concerning marine biology and ecology of the New Zealand region from shallow, intertidal to deep-sea environments. He has supervised, mentored and shared his extensive knowledge with numerous students, many of which have gone on to be successful marine scientists. He has been instrumental in developing marine science courses and programmes at Otago University.  Keith is an excellent communicator to the general public having given public lectures, taught university extension courses and written general interest books such as “Seas around New Zealand”. Through his research, teaching, student supervision and outreach Keith has contributed to marine science and marine scientists in New Zealand in countless ways. 


2012 Recipients - John Booth and Malcolm Clark
The New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) has recognized the outstanding contributions to marine science of two leading NIWA scientists: Malcolm Clark and John Booth, both graduates of Victoria University, were honoured with NZMSS Awards at the recent jointly held meeting with the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) in Hobart July 1-5, 2012. The formal presentation of the Awards was made at NIWA, Greta Point on Tuesday August 21.

2013 Recipient - Alison MacDiarmid

In 2013 the NZMSS Award trophy was awarded to Dr. Alison MacDiarmid of NIWA, Wellington. Alison has an extensive history of supporting NZMSS and working on Council as President and Secretary. In her early scientific career, she made substantial progress on the biology of rock lobster, and more recently she has been leading a major international project on HMAP, an interdisciplinary research project to explore changes in New Zealand marine shelf ecosystems over the past 1000 years. Alison has corralled a wide range of specialists for this work– marine biologists, ecologists, archaeologists, social scientists, historians, climatologists, oceanographers, geologists, Maori and modellers. She has also been extremely active in contributing her time and expertise to the uptake of marine science into management and policy, particularly with respect to marine ecosystem services and how they can be monitored to meet legislative obligations under the RMA Act. Alison is an outstanding example of what working at the interface really means for marine science today and it is particularly apt that her contribution was recognised and announced at our Annual Conference 2013, “Aquatic Science at the Interface”.

2012 Recipients - John Booth and Malcolm Clark

The New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) has recognized the outstanding contributions to marine science of two leading NIWA scientists: Malcolm Clark and John Booth, both graduates of Victoria University, were honoured with NZMSS Awards at the recent jointly held meeting with the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) in Hobart July 1-5, 2012. The formal presentation of the Awards was made at NIWA, Greta Point on Tuesday August 21.

2012 John Booth:  Dr. Booth has spent much of the last 40 years leading spiny rock lobster research for fisheries management in New Zealand. His primary focus has been on larval  distribution,  settlement, and juvenile development of the red rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii). One of John’s greatest contributions has undoubtedly been his commitment to setting up and maintaining a national network to monitor the spatial and temporal variation in larval settlement around New Zealand’s coast. John battled hard to maintain funding to support this monitoring network. The time series in places extends over 30 years and is proving its value to the fishery and is one of only a handful of such marine biological time series in New Zealand. These data provide an indicator of what drives recruitment into the fishery.  Along with Australian colleagues John showed that Australian rock lobster larvae could be recruited into the NZ fishery. He has also contributed to the important marine biodiversity book (& CD) “A Guide to Common Deep sea Invertebrates in New Zealand Waters” published by the Ministry for Primary Industries. John is a very talented scientist: beginning his research career on the larval stages of bivalves and, at the time of his retirement, becoming one of the world’s leading carcinologists. He continues to be an advisor on plans for conservation of the seas around northern New Zealand and our southern off-shore islands. The NZMSS Award also marks the publication in 2011 of his book on spiny lobsters “Through the Eyes of the Giant Packhorse” (Victoria University Press) a book focused on packhorse lobster (Sagmariasus verreauxi) biology and fisheries history, but dealing all the world’s spiny lobsters.

 2012 Malcolm Clark: Dr. Clark, is a highly respected Principal Scientist at NIWA who has carried out research on deepwater fisheries in New Zealand for 30 years. He has significantly advanced our knowledge of orange roughy biology, stock structure and stock abundance, trophic relationships, deepwater bycatch species and fish community composition throughout the NZ EEZ. He has also been extensively involved in researching and resolving issues around deepwater fisheries on the high seas, including trans-boundary stocks. Malcolm has participated in more than 70 deepwater fishery and biodiversity surveys which have provided valuable information used to manage New Zealand fish resources and provide an understanding of biodiversity of the deep sea. His expertise has resulted in his participation in research programs and consultancy work with many countries around the Pacific and Atlantic.  The other major area of Dr Clark’s work has been as a world leader on seamount research, characterisation of their biodiversity and the impacts of fishing and potential sea-bed mining. He has worked with Russian and European co-authors on an account of global trawl fisheries on seamounts, and also headed the Secretariat of the Census of Marine Life programme on Seamounts, which was one of 14 field projects forming part of a global census of life in the oceans. He has also lead several international surveys, including work off New Caledonia in 1997, on seamounts in the Tasman Sea in 2003, and in the Ross Sea (Antarctica) in 2004 and 2008 as part of New Zealand’s contribution to International Polar Year. He also participated in the 2005 “Ring of Fire” Expedition which included submersible dives (Pisces V) on Kermadec Ridge seamounts. Malcolm continues his work on deep sea ecology at NIWA, Greta Point, where he is Program Leader for the Oceans Centre portfolio. 


2010 Simon Thrush:  Simon did his undergraduate studies in marine science at the University of Otago, then went on to do his doctoral work at the University of East Anglia, UK. He then returned to New Zealand as a post-doctoral Fellow (funded by the old University Grants Committee) at Otago University before getting a real job at the Water Quality Centre in Hamilton (1986-1992) and then at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, where he currently works as a Principal Scientist and the Science Leader in Coastal Ecosystems.  Simon is without doubt the top soft-sediment ecologist in New Zealand and at the very top of his profession worldwide. 

2009 Pamela Mace: A graduate of Canterbury University Pamela has worked in the area of fisheries and was closely involved in the design of the rules that NZ uses to sustainably manage its marine fisheries. The Queen of the Quota Management System and Chief Scientist at MFISH, Wellington.


2008 Malcolm Francis: Malcolm is a Principal Fisheries Scientist at NIWA, Wellington and sharks are his business! He has pioneered tagging and release studies of sharks obtaining valuable depth data and migratory routes by satellites from pop-up tags that were attached to great whites. New Zealand’s foremost shark researcher and a highly skilled underwater photographer. He had a central role in establishing our largest marine reserve around the Kermadec Islands.

2007 Wendy Nelson: An expert in biodiversity of marine macroalgae and coastal ecology. She has had an important role on the New Zealand Conservation Authority. Wendy is based at NIWA in Wellington. During her three decades of research, she has established a notable track record of publications, especially on algal biosystematics and taxonomy.


2005 Dennis Gordon: Dennis is a global authority on the systematics, phylogeny, and biology of living and fossil bryozoans, encrusting animals found everywhere in the sea. He has been involved in international efforts to catalogue world biodiversity(Catalogue of Life and world register of marine species). He coordinated and edited the decade-long project "Inventory of New Zealand Biodiversity" that provides the authoritative names for the New Zealand Organisms Register.


2003 Dave Schiel: Professor David Schiel received the Award as one of New Zealand’s most productive and effective marine scientists. He has made an outstanding contribution to what we know about the NZ paua fishery and more recently to studies of recruitment dynamics and coastal ecology New Zealand-wide, but especially in the South Island.


2002 Bill Ballantine: On the staff of Auckland University 1965-2003 and the first Director of the Leigh Marine Laboratory (1965-1985). One of the key people responsible for establishing the first Marine Reserve at Leigh (1975), Bill devoted his life to the establishment of as many marine reserves as possible around the New Zealand Coast: an idea that encapsulates his views is that all of the New Zealand EEZ should be declared a reserve and that anyone who wanted to use it would have to apply for permission, rather than the situation that we have, where someone has to apply for permission to protect it! Biodiversity needed restoring and limpets were his passion. A tireless campaigner for marine conservation and a strong believer in the need for long term monitoring in the marine environment.


2001 Bruce Hayward: Dr Bruce Hayward is Principal Scientist and owner of Auckland´s Geomarine Research. He and his team of micropaleontologists are the authorities on New Zealand´s modern foraminifera and their application to studies of paleoceanography, sea level rise, coastal earthquakes, and human impacts on the coastal marine environment. His group has determined the timing, architecture and impact of the last global extinction event in the deep sea. Bruce is a former curator of Marine Invertebrates at Auckland Museum where he led studies on the soft sediment ecology and marine invaders in the Waitemata Harbour. He was Scientific Editor of John Morton´s last book "Seashore ecology of New Zealand and the Pacific" and has written 18 of his own books, authored or coauthored 12 scientific monographs and over 240 refereed papers. He was awarded a MNZM for his services to conservation and the establishment of the New Zealand Geopreservation Inventory. He is a past President of the Geological Science Society of NZ and past member of the NZ Conservation Authority.


2000 Bob Creese: A leading light in coastal ecology and former Scientist-in-charge at Leigh Marine Laboratory. His speciality is the ecology of molluscs. At Leigh he conducted research in the fields of marine ecology, conservation biology and aquaculture. Bob has contributed to our knowledge of marine invertebrates & seaweeds, sustainable use of aquatic resources, aquatic pests, monitoring & evaluating change in aquatic ecosystems.

1999 Lionel Carter: Dr Lionel Carter received the Award for his internationally important research across a broad spectrum of oceanography, most notably into abyssal current regimes and sedimentation processes and their links to global climate changes, and also for his significant contribution to seabed monitoring and charting around New Zealand.


1997 John Jillett: Associate Professor John Jillett, Otago University, received the award for his many years of dedicated research on zooplankton (copepods and Munida gregaria) off the Auckland and Otago coasts. It also recognised a huge contribution to marine science through his teaching and administrative duties at the University of Otago and particularly at the Portobello Marine Laboratory (1974-1994).


1996 Chris Francis: Chris Francis, NIWA, Wellington, received the award in recognition of the fundamentally important part that mathematical and statistical analysis play in marine research, as shown by his novel approaches to fisheries modelling, incorporating risk estimates into a simulations.


1995 Vivienne Cassie-Cooper: Dr Cassie-Cooper, Landcare Research, Hamilton, made a huge contribution to the study of microalgae and phytoplankton, including her pioneering achievement of the first survey of marine phytoplankton in coastal waters around New Zealand.


1994 Janet Grieve: A graduate of Canterbury University, Janet received the Award for her achievements as one of New Zealand’s leading biological oceanographers at NIWA, Wellington. She is New Zealand’s foremost authority on the biodiversity of marine planktonic copepods. Janet has investigated the physical and biological processes that govern ocean productivity, and is a strong advocate for the sustainable management of the ocean’s fisheries.


1991 Ron Heath: Was presented the Award for his highly productive research career in oceanography, including his work on tides and on the diffusive advective balance of the sub-tropical convergence, as well as his administrative career with NZ Oceanographic Institute (NZOI) during the 1980s and as Director of the newly established DSIR Division of Marine and Freshwater Science. He later took up a senior administrative role at the University of Otago.


1990 Pat Bergquist: Professor of Zoology, Auckland University in recognition of her many achievements, especially her extensive research on the taxonomy and developmental biology of marine sponges.


1988 John Morton: Professor of Zoology, Auckland University 1960 – 1989; author of classic works on Mollusca, The New Zealand Sea Shore, Native Forests, and Coastal Conservation. One of the leaders who established the Leigh Marine Laboratory, 1962. A product of an age when knowing “Biodiversity” in its totality (including many plants and animals that hardly anyone knew anything about) was essential, this charismatic and somewhat eccentric man was greatly admired as a lecturer and speaker. Initially known as a marine biologist he became a leader in the New Zealand conservation movement of the 1970-80’s.


1986 Howard Choat: Professor of Marine Biology at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, but formerly the Zoology Department, Auckland University (1969-1985). He carried out now classic research on fish of rocky reefs, especially at the Leigh Marine Reserve. His research includes the biology of Herbivorous Fishes, Including Development and Growth from Larval Stages; the demography and Life Cycles in Reef Fishes and Cephalopods; and evolutionary biology of reef fishes.

1985 Norm Barber: Professor Norm Barber, formerly of Victoria University and a former chief physicist of the Dominion Physical Laboratory. His contribution to understanding the origin, behaviour and travel of ocean waves, made him one of the founders of marine science in New Zealand. In a classic experiment in 1963 a group of wave experts, including Norman Barber, set up wave recording sites that extended across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Alaska. The NZ wave recording site was at the Cape Palliser light house.


1985 Jim Brodie: From 1958 to 1977 he was Director of the NZ Oceanographic Institute (NZOI), the forerunner of NIWA. His expertise was in Quaternary geology and oceanography and he used his skills and knowledge to lead a group that embarked upon fundamental biological, geological and physical studies of our vast offshore region. One might say that he was the “Father” of New Zealand Oceanography.


1985 George Knox: Professor of Zoology, Canterbury University, George was one of the founders of the NZ Marine Science Society. A leading figure in the field of marine science during the 1960’s – 1970’s with a special interest in the biogeography of the southern oceans. Polychaetes were his passion and he was a tireless campaigner for the Marine Environment, a leader of several expeditions to southern off-shore islands and to the Antarctic. The research wing of University of Canterbury field station at Kaikoura bears as name, acknowledging the role that he had in founding the station.


Special Award for Contributions to the Society
At the 2009 conference the NZMSS council presented Bob Hickman with a special award and lifetime membership to recognise his tireless contributions to the NZMSS in every society capacity over many years. Beyond his efforts to NZ marine science in general, Bob's work carried the society through successes and tribulations alike, making it a better organisation promoting and supporting marine science professionals and students. Thanks Bob!