Science

NZAGRC Science Leadership Team

The role of NZAGRC Science Leadership Team (SLT) is to play a key part in the development, implementation and monitoring of all of the Centre’s science programmes and strategies.  It consists of respected New Zealand-based researchers with excellent science credentials accompanied by strong leadership, communication, strategic and inter-personal skills with expertise in those areas of science covered in the NZAGRC Strategy and Science Plan.

Membership is agreed by the Steering Group and includes the NZAGRC Principal Investigators in addition to the NZAGRC Director and NZAGRC Operations Manager.  

Dr Graeme Attwood  AgResearch  
Dr Cecile DeKlein   AgResearch 
Professor Hong Di  Lincoln University 
Dr Robyn Dynes  AgResearch  
Dr Peter Janssen  AgResearch  
Dr David Whitehead   Manaaki Whenua

 

Science leadership & capability building 

The NZAGRC is committed to providing opportunities for researchers to be trained and work with leading experts in New Zealand.  Some students go on to continue their studies or enter a postdoctoral position under guidance from NZAGRC science leaders, other enter into industry based positions.

The NZAGRC supports more than 50 researchers and students by providing funding via its core research programme or via its student scholarships programme.

Below are profiles of our scientists and past students. 

Applying maths to methane

What does maths have to do with methane? Quite a lot, it turns out, with a research project combining the disciplines of biology and mathematics—funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre—set to boost scientific knowledge of rumen systems and how to mitigate greenhouse gases. 

Yuancheng (James) Wang is graduating from Massey University this month with a PhD in mathematics. His multidisciplinary thesis saw him apply his mathematical knowledge to a topic that was entirely new to him: rumen microbiology. 

“For my project I developed a mathematical model that describes the interactions between microbes in the rumen and their food source,” explains James. “My model was also able to take into account the impact of the rumen environment on those interactions, which existing models designed to estimate methane production did not consider.” 

He says the results provided by his mathematical model were consistent with biological expectations, and the model could be expanded to include other factors influencing methane production, such as feeding level and frequency.

While James’ project focused on methane-producing microbes (methanogens), he says his model will be able to be used in conjunction with models describing other parts of the rumen system, which will provide the full picture of rumen function.

James says there are real benefits of applying mathematical modelling to biological systems. “Modelling means you can explore interactions that occur in the rumen system in ways you cannot do in experiments, and you can test your knowledge to uncover any gaps,” he says. “It’s also very cost-effective as it allows you to perform multiple experiments to understand what might happen in rumen systems, before designing and carrying out much more expensive animal trials.”

His PhD was supervised by Drs Peter Janssen and David Pacheco from AgResearch, who provided guidance on the how the rumen functions, along with Dr Tammy Lynch and Associate Professor Bruce Van Brunt from Massey’s Institute of Fundamental Science who supervised the mathematical component of the research. 

James says he never thought his background in mathematics would see him end up working in agricultural science.

“I’ve always been aware that mathematics can be applied to virtually any discipline, and it just happened that I got into this one which I’ve found extremely interesting,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed learning about greenhouse gases—at the moment it’s a very critical topic for New Zealand, so it’s been great to be at the forefront of this science to help boost the knowledge a little.”

His work is currently being prepared for publication in a science journal in the near future.

James has moved back to Qingdao, China, to look for work and to be closer to family after more than a decade away from home. “I’ll certainly miss New Zealand though, and will always be grateful for the support provided by the NZAGRC for my project.”

More information

Grazing Sheep and Cows

NZAGRC-PGGRC methane research programme


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