The award is presented to a person who, in the opinion of our Council, has participated in the activities of the Society, has represented its interests, and has been instrumental in the achievement of its objective: the advancement of 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.

Nomination rules

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.

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.

Nominations for the next award must be submitted by 29 March 2019.

Past recipients

The recipients of the NZMSS award in its inaugural year were considered “founders of marine science in New Zealand” and recognised for their contribution to ocean physics, marine geology and marine ecology. Subsequent recipients of the award have made contributions across a broad spectrum of marine science endeavour.

2018 recipient


Dr. Conrad Pilditch – benthic ecology, marine ecosystems, intertidal ecology and deep sea ecosystems

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 – extinction patterns, global biogeography and biodiversity conservation

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.

Additionally, Dr. Costello encouraged and supported Dr. Bill Ballantine over the last years of his life to publish his important work, thus contributing to the preservation of Dr Ballantine’s knowledge.

2016 recipient

Dr. Judi Hewitt – marine ecosystem health and ecological scaling

Dr. Hewitt is an internationally-recognised marine ecologist, best known for her significant contribution to the understanding of the role of scale in ecology and using advanced statistics to address challenging ecological questions.

Judi has published more than 130 peer reviewed journal articles and is an editor for two international journals. Her seminal publication on ecological scaling, published in American Naturalist in 2007, is regarded as one of the most important papers in marine ecology. Another paper, published in Ecology and subsequently cited 112 times, revealed the role of shell debris patches in driving biodiversity in what are frequently viewed as featureless mud plains.

In addition to science leadership roles at NIWA and with the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge hosted by NIWA, Dr. Hewitt is a professor of Marine Biology at the University of Helsinki. She is also an excellent communicator and an outstanding role model and mentor for young women in science.

Judi’s reputation and solutions-focused research have 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.

Past NZMSS award recipients

Past award recipients will be uploaded over the next couple of months. Watch this space

2015 recipient

Dr. Rob Murdoch – oceanography, natural resource and environmental science

Through his oceanography research, Dr. Murdoch has had a major influence on the extent and direction of marine and natural resource science in New Zealand. He plays 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 is widely regarded as a guiding hand in forging the careers of many marine scientists, and has made many valuable contributions to the science community. Not only within his senior roles at NIWA, but also on numerous advisory boards and panels, including WWF New Zealand and the Antarctic Research Institute.

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