John Morton Medal

The NZMSS John Morton Medal can be awarded to a person whose scientific work has, in the opinion of the NZMSS Council, made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of marine conservation and sustainability in New Zealand.

The award is tailored to the intended recipient with an engraved plaque to be presented at the NZMSS annual conference. Any NZMSS member can make a nomination to the Secretary or as advised. Nominations will be sought and considered annually, but the Council need not present the medal each year.

Nomination procedure

All nominations must be made using a 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.

Please email the completed nomination form to Please insert ‘John Morton Medal’ 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, however may not be given every year.

Nominations must be submitted by 29  March 2019.

Past recipients


2018 recipient – Dr. Roger Grace

Dr Roger Grace was awarded the John Morton Award in 2019 in recognition of his life-long dedication and contribution to marine conservation. Roger did his PhD under the supervision of Professor John Morton on the benthic ecology of the Whangateau Harbour and was the first student at the University of Auckland to carry out a diving-based thesis.  Roger was a true pioneer in scientific diving and underwater photography.  Photography has been a major component of Roger’s contribution to marine science and marine conservation, documenting and telling a story.  He was the photographer on many Greenpeace campaigns in the 1990’s and early 2000’s that took him all over the world and shone a spotlight on important issues in the marine environment such as the effects of bottom trawling. Roger also pioneered habitat mapping and marine reserve monitoring in NZ, including developing rapid methods for seabed habitat mapping, including aerial photography, underwater video, and sonar. Roger remains active in marine conservation, he is a frequent speaker at public meetings, to local community groups, schools and workshops, and regularly provides expert advice on MPAs and other issues in the marine environment. Through his research, photos, presentations and hundreds of popular articles on marine conservation Roger has played an important role in informing the wider public on the situation and issues regarding marine biodiversity in New Zealand.

2017 recipient – Dr. Ken Grange

The 2017 John Morton award was presented to Dr Ken Grange for his outstanding contribution to marine conservation in New Zealand. Dr Grange has been described as providing a measured, steady hand, and operating with a high degree of professionalism that embodies both scientific rigour and kaitiakitanga.

Dr Grange’s public explanations of the science behind the fragile environment of Fiordland led to the establishment of the first two marine reserves there in 1993. Furthermore, his scientific advice was integral to the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act and he remains a ministerially appointed Fiordland Marine Guardian today. Ken is a marine ecologist with a PhD in Marine Ecology from Florida International University. He researched the marine environment in NZ fiords, particularly the ecology of black corals, at the NZ Oceanographic Institute, DSIR, in Wellington, before this agency changed into NIWA. He has been a Regional Manager at NIWA in Nelson since 1994. 

The 2017 award was a glass sculpture made by Justin Culina.

2016 recipients – Dr Steve Dawson & Dr Elisabeth Slooten

Professor Steve Dawson and Professor Elisabeth Slooten, from Otago University, received the first John Morton Award in 2016. They have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of marine science and marine conservation in New Zealand. Their ongoing research programme on Hector’s and Maui dolphins started in 1984 and is now one of the longest dolphin research programmes in the world. This research has led to several protected areas where gillnet and trawl fisheries are banned in dolphin habitat in order to reduce dolphin mortality. The Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary was created in 1988 by Helen Clark, then the Minister of Conservation. This protected area has since been shown to increase dolphin survival by more than 5%, resulting in a population that was declining at 6% now being almost stable. In 2003, a second protected area was created off the North Island west coast to protect Maui dolphin, the North Island subspecies of Hector’s dolphin. A more comprehensive package of protected areas was created in 2008 and is currently being reviewed. In addition to carrying out research, teaching and supervising more than 50 graduate students, Liz and Steve have given well over 100 public talks and have written two books on Hector’s and Maui dolphin biology and conservation. In 2004 they were the recipients of the Royal Society Sir Charles Fleming Award.



Past John Morton award recipients

Past award recipients will be uploaded over the next couple of months…watch this space