Media release

Phase two science leads appointed

20 December 2018

Congratulations to the researchers selected to lead science programmes in the second phase of Resilience to Nature’s Challenges research.

The Resilience Challenge’s science structure will be adjusted for the second phase of research, with two new overarching models accompanied by eight science themes. The Multihazard Risk Model and Resilience in Practice Model will work alongside Rural, Urban, Māori, Built, Coastal, Weather, Earthquake/Tsunami and Volcanism themes to enhance New Zealand’s resilience to natural hazards. A science leader and deputy leader has been chosen for each of these ten science programmes.

Professor Mark Bebbington has been selected to lead the Multihazard Risk Model, with Dr Garry McDonald as deputy leader. Prof Bebbington of Massey University and Dr McDonald of Market Economics currently lead the Resilience Challenge’s Hazard and Economics Toolboxes respectively. Together, their programmes developed mathematical and economic models that are considered some of the most exciting and high-impact science undertaken by the Challenge to date. This work will continue and be enhanced in the second phase of research.

Dr Nick Cradock-Henry from Manaaki Whenua will lead the Resilience in Practice Model alongside Dr Julia Becker of GNS Science. Dr Cradock-Henry currently co-leads the Rural Co-creation Laboratory, designing much of the co-creation methodology and collaboration tools which have proven highly successful. Dr Becker, current leader of the Culture Toolbox, also has an excellent track record with the Challenge and will bring a social science focus to the research programme.

Assoc Prof Tom Wilson of the University of Canterbury will lead the Rural Theme, this time alongside emerging researcher Dr Caroline Orchiston of The University of Otago. Their strong stakeholder rapport and complementary areas of research expertise will ensure the programme’s trajectory of excellent programme delivery, collaboration and collegiality is continued.

The Urban Theme will be led by Assoc Prof Jan Lindsay of The University of Auckland, alongside Prof David Johnston. Assoc Prof Lindsay brings physical science expertise and strong linkages both internationally and locally, while Prof Johnston is well respected in the resilience space, with an extensive and diverse research record.

Emerging researcher Dr Acushla (Dee) Sciascia from Massey University will lead the Māori Theme, drawing on her expertise in communication and Māori-specific communication tools. The Challenge will look to appoint a deputy leader to work alongside Dr Sciascia.

The Built Theme will be a continuation of phase one’s Infrastructure Toolbox, led by Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon of The University of Auckland, this time with deputy leader Assoc Prof Tim Sullivan from the University of Canterbury. Assoc Prof Wotherspoon has been an asset to the Challenge to date, attracting a large amount of funding and excellent international connections.

With overwhelming support from the Resilience Challenge team he currently leads, Dr Mark Dickson of The University of Auckland will lead the Coastal Theme, alongside Dr Rob Bell of NIWA. Dr Dickson is particularly skilled in bringing researchers and stakeholders together.

Current leader of the Natural Hazards Research Platform Weather, Flood & Coastal Hazards Theme, Dr Richard Turner from NIWA will lead our Weather Theme, alongside Dr Sally Potter of GNS Science. Dr Turner’s experience and areas of expertise align nicely with emerging researcher Dr Potter’s, and both have a track record of strong collaboration and communication.

The Earthquake/Tsunami Theme will be led by Prof Andy Nicol from the University of Canterbury, with GNS Science’s Dr Bill Fry as deputy leader. Prof Nicol has strong support in his field, and both he and Dr Fry are internationally renowned for their work.

Current leader of the Resilience Challenge Mātauranga Māori Co-creation Laboratory, Assoc Prof Jon Procter of Massey University will lead the new Volcano Theme alongside GNS Science’s Dr Art Jolly. Assoc Prof Procter and Dr Jolly are both strong volcano scientists with excellent track records of collaboration.

All candidates were nominated through an expressions of interest round in November. Nominees were considered by a panel consisting of a representative from each the Resilience Challenge’s advisory groups and Challenge Parties group, as well as the current and incoming Challenge directors.

Model and Theme leaders will put their research teams together in early 2019.


Resilience to Nature’s Challenges is one of eleven MBIE funded National Science Challenges. It is increasing the resilience of Aotearoa New Zealand by developing new scientific solutions to transform our response, recovery and ‘bounce-back’ from our wide diversity of natural hazards.

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